Revenue Neutral is an illusion


The word, “Revenue Neutral” (RN) is a County Manager and a County Board of Commissioners (BOC) tax curve ball to the property owners of Sampson County. Here’s why:

(RN) is government “new speak.” It’s a word that was hatched in the Halls of the UNC School of Government for county managers to use and pull the wool over North Carolina property owners. It’s “code” for no new tax increase (or decrease for that matter), but wait. It serves as linguistic camouflage for county managers and (BOC) to subsequently raise property tax, net.

Like Will Rogers, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” I read where the Sampson County (SC) budget is (RN). As you can imagine, the budget is a complex document comprised of two major elements: Part One property tax. And Part Two is comprised of sales tax, fees, and other revenue from such things as home improvement permit fees, electrical permit fees, and construction fees.

But only Part One, the property tax, can be considered (RN), and that depends on how much revenue Part Two generates. So, what if Part Two of the county budget comes up short due to year-end revenue collections? After all, sales tax collections, re-distributions of the sales tax, and other fees are a political preoccupation. Every Republican in the NC State General Assembly is after a piece of that pie. So what if sales tax cash flow and “other” permitting fees diminish in the county budget due to increased confiscations from the State House, what then? I assert that the loss in the county will have to be made up from the property tax.

As we all know, there is first the “want” then the “need” and the talk of funding grants and a few secret meetings (all done with no blame or shame), and boom, a new spending amendment to the budget is enacted.

The idea of sales tax does not raise the hackles to the same degree as property tax increase. The Republicans in the State House has first “dibs.” But when county budgets fall short because the economy changes, or a want or need for a fleet of lawn mowers in the county are justified, or new cars for the Sherriff or more trucks to pick up yard trash, or the need for medical insurance arises, or the requirement for a “new” county personnel study is needed, or if anything detrimental to sales taxation occurs, then property taxes make up the shortfall; hence, (RN) ceases to be. There are no costs that can be avoided. None! Zip! Zilch! When the need arises, just “slip in a new tax, Max,” “We need some more bread, Fred,” “No need to annoy, Roy,” “Just grab what you can, Stan” and declare in the newspaper how we Republicans promote small government.

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