Sampson County has discussed the potential of implementing another increase in sales taxes, but it would have to be signed off on by the N.C. General Assembly.
The Board of Commissioners previously requested some information with regard to authorization of counties to increase local sales taxes. County attorney Annette Chancy Starling gave a brief presentation to commissioners earlier this week.
All North Carolina counties are authorized to levy up to 2.25 percent in general local sales and use taxes. The 2.25 percent is comprised of four separate taxes that are authorized pursuant to the N.C. General Statute, including the Article 39 1-cent tax, the Article 40 half-cent tax, the Article 42 half-cent tax and the Article 46 quarter-cent tax.
Sampson County already levies all sales taxes that are authorized pursuant to the General Statutes, Starling said. If Sampson wishes to pursue imposing additional sales taxes, the board should adopt a resolution asking that legislation be passed to permit additional sales taxes.
“Currently, Sampson County levies the full 2.25 percent,” said Starling. “In order for Sampson County to levy additional sales tax, there would have to be additional legislation permitting the sales tax.”
Under the current statutes that permit county sales taxes, counties are required to hold a public hearing or a referendum before any additional sales tax can be imposed. Some statutes give the option between a public hearing and referendum and others require one or the other, Starling noted.
“Most all counties level the 2 cent sales tax,” Starling said. “The quarter-cent sales tax has been in the last couple years. Before you could levy that sales tax, you had to have a referendum. I think Sampson County did that in 2008, as soon as they could do it. I don’t know about the surrounding counties, whether they levy that quarter-cent or not.”
Finance officer David Clack said Harnett County, for one, has placed a referendum for the additional quarter-cent sales tax, but it has not passed. “We were the first successful county to pass that quarter-cent referendum,” said assistant county manager Susan Holder.
Clack said the 2.25-cent sales tax equates to around $6 million, budgeted in the General Fund.
“I think if that’s something the board wants to do, I think we should lower the property tax,” said commissioner Jarvis McLamb.
“I don’t think anybody wants to levy (an additional) 2.25 cents, because we’d be so far out of our neighbors nobody would shop in Sampson County,” said Clack, “especially if they live close to somewhere else. Another quarter cent is about another $800,000 or $900,000. You would not get to levy any new county sales taxes on the same items — like Article 39 for instance is levied on food. If you adopt any new sales taxes, they would not be levied on food.”
Commissioners asked what kind of feedback had been received by county staff about the possibility of sales taxes being raised. Clack said that has been non-existent.
“There’s not been enough publicity about it,” he said. “You all would probably hear before we would, for the most part. We have not really had any feedback, because I don’t think there’s been a big enough push for it yet. Once the state gets a hold of our request — they have not wanted to do anything with regard to taxes — and they start to push it, then it will gather a little bit more steam and I guess we’d start hearing about it more.”
Board chairman Billy Lockamy said he has heard from others that the taxes is about the fairest across the board.
“I know from talking with the public, myself, and I hear from property owners all the time,” said Lockamy. “They said it is the fairest tax.”
Starling encouraged the board to discuss this matter with local legislators and to notify the Association of County Commissioners if that is a goal they wish to pursue. Clack said it was important to weigh additional revenue against the prospect of having a higher sales tax than other counties.
“We do not want to get too far ahead of our neighbors in sales tax,” he stressed.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.