Brunswick sales tax debate continues without resolution - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Brunswick sales tax debate continues without resolution

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Members of the board are trying to decide how to distribute sales tax money among the 19 municipalities in Brunswick County Members of the board are trying to decide how to distribute sales tax money among the 19 municipalities in Brunswick County

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – The ongoing debate in Brunswick County over sales tax revenue and how to distribute the money continues.

The Brunswick County Sales Tax Distribution Committee is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Members of the board are trying to decide how to distribute sales tax money among the 19 municipalities in Brunswick County.

This is the second time in as many months that the committee has met to discuss this issue.

There's a strict line drawn between those who support one method over the other.

BACKGROUND:

Every year, the county collects millions of dollars in sales tax revenue.

That money is then distributed among the municipalities using a per-capita method based on population. Under that method, the larger towns get the biggest pieces of the pie.

Some people, however, would like to see a change to an ad-valorum method, which is based on property tax revenue generated. So a town with a higher property value base will typically get more under ad valorem.

Now, the committee is trying to decide whether or not to keep the current form of distribution or explore other methods.

SUPPORT OF AD-VALORUM METHOD:

Several people spoke out in favor of the ad-valorum method during Wednesday's meeting.

Caswell Beach Mayor Harry Simmons wants the committee to account for the fact that the population in beach communities expands during summer months. Simmons said the visitor population is not accounted for in the census which skews the statistics in favor of larger, inland towns.

Claude Pope, a resident and small business owner from Bald Head Island, also spoke out against the current method.  Pope says the per-capita method has a negative effect on him and other small business owners.

The Mayor of Bald head Island also chimed in stating the population on the island has gone down 15% over the past several years.  He said the per capita method is not working and "something has got to give."

SUPPORT OF PER-CAPITA METHOD:

Many people spoke in favor of keeping the current, per-capita method.

Sunset Beach Mayor Rich Cerratto said that if the method is changed, his town would lose $256,000 a year, which in turn would force them to raise taxes to counter the deficit.

Arnetta Graham, of Northwest, is concerned her taxes would go up by more than 100% if the change is made.

Graham said the increase would be "devastating to an already economically challenged and impaired district."

WHAT'S NEXT:

After public comment, County Manager Ann Hardy presented a summary of the responses received from municipalities both for and against the policy changes.

The overwhelming majority of responses received are in favor of maintaining the per-capita distribution method.

However, the Sales Tax Distribution Committee did not take action on Wednesday -- citing the need for more time and information to be presented.

The committee will review the information in preparation for its next meeting scheduled for December 16 at 5 p.m.

Representatives from the committee say they hope to be able to make a recommendation on which method to choose from at its next meeting.

Ultimately, the final decision lies in the hands of Brunswick County commissioners. The deadline to make a decision is April, 2014.

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