State bill could mean spike in property taxes for NHC residents

A bill being discussed in Raleigh could have a major impact on the citizens of New Hanover County. (Source: WECT)
A bill being discussed in Raleigh could have a major impact on the citizens of New Hanover County. (Source: WECT)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A tax bill being discussed in Raleigh could have a major impact on the citizens of New Hanover County.

HB 1224 is a bill designed to limit the total local government sales and use tax rate to 2.5 percent. The bill text reads that the legislation is designed to give counties the flexibility to use up to one-half percent of the local sales tax for public transportation, public education, general purposes or a combination of the efforts. The text also states that the legislation is designed to make changes to tax and development laws.

New Hanover County currently has a 2.25 percent sales tax according to NHC Finance Director Lisa Wurtzbacher. She said the county could levy additional sales taxes for general government uses, public transportation, or education needs. However, the proposed bill would only allow the county to increase that tax rate an additional quarter.

Some local leaders aren't happy about the proposed legislation.

"With this new cap they're looking at ways to reduce or restrict what counties can do when it comes to raising revenues," said New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.

Barfield criticized the legislation for putting a potential strain on the taxpayers of North Carolina.

"Finding ways to cap what the counties can do when we're already strapped for cash is the wrong step to take," Barfield said. "They're trying to find ways to balance their budget and they're balancing their budget on the backs of counties."

The elected leader said the sales tax should be left alone, as he currently sees it as the most fair of the fees placed upon county residents.

"For me the sales tax is the most common tax we can pass in terms of everyone shares in that, not just the property owners, but anyone who comes to our community," said Barfield.

Wurtzbacher agreed that the county should be able to manage it's own sales tax cap.

"At a local level we know our needs. We know our revenue sources. At the local level, we have the best knowledge to determine what's the right set of revenue and what's right for our local communities," Wurtzbacher explained.

Barfield elaborated that the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners will continue to voice their displeasure with the bill at the state level in Raleigh.

"We have been fighting for a long time now to have as many options as we can to raise local revenues when things get tight. The last thing that I want to do is raise property taxes," said Barfield.

The bill was last referred to a committee on finance Thursday, July 24. Barfield said he could not project the future of the bill.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.