Rowan commissioners deal with sales tax hike, tax appraisals on property

by David Whisenant - bio l email

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Commissioners in Rowan tackled two tough issues that will have a significant impact on residents.

On Monday night commissioners voted to allow residents to go to the polls in November to vote on a quarter cent sales tax increase.  The money would be used to pay for a new $6 million jail annex to ease overcrowding at the county jail.

"Our current jail was built, designed for 162 beds," said county manager Gary Page.   "But the state has allowed us to keep 210, at the same time we have 40 prisoners in Sampson County that we're paying $40 tp $50 a day and it's costing the county $650-$700 thousand a year."

The money would also go for new digital emergency radio systems for firefighters, deputies, and emergency responders.

If the tax hike is not approved, Page says the county will have to cut services or consider a two cent property tax increase.

Rowan commissioners also voted not to delay the scheduled 2011 tax revaluation of property.

The county's own tax department urged commissioners to put off the appraisal until the housing market is more stable.

A majority of commissioners voted to stay on schedule, even though with the soft housing market it would mean a drop in the county tax base.

It does not necessarily mean a drop in what residents pay.

"What happens is if on the average our values went down 5%," said Page.   "The tax base would go down 5%, you would assume your bill would go down 5%, but what happens is last year our budget was $125 million, so if values go down I still have to have 125 to run the county so I would have to come back to the board and recommend a 2 or 3% tax increase just to get the same money to operate schools, welfare programs and the county in general."

Rowan County conducts appraisals every four years.