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Board expresses concern over possible change to sales tax collection method


SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen on Monday night discussed the possibility of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners changing the sales tax collection method from per capita to ad valorem and what that could mean for the town.

Mayor Kia Anthony said the mayor’s coalition was opposed to the change as it would cost each municipality tens of thousands to several million dollars a year.

Anthony said although this has been a topic of conversation since 2004 and was brought up again in 2019 with the goal being to change to ad valorem this year, municipalities within Cumberland County had dealt with unprecedented events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and 500-year floods.

“This is a very big deal that is going to affect all of Cumberland County,’’ said Anthony, who added that she had only been briefed a week ago on the possible change.Spring Lake is positioned to lose $1.4 million in sales tax dollars every year.” 

“All of those things like the pandemic and flooding factor into municipalities being able to budget to compensate for the money that is going to be lost.”

The Cumberland County commissioners are expected to get an update on how the county and its municipalities split local sales taxes during their agenda session Tuesday. Since 2003, the county has been in an agreement with its towns and cities to split the sales tax on a per capita basis. However, the agreement expires on June 30. 

The current per capita distribution mostly benefits municipalities. While the county’s sales tax shrinks, its state and federally mandated responsibilities remain the same. Counties may change the method in April; the new method goes into effect 14 months later.

The change from tax collection being based on population versus property values would negatively impact the sales tax that the town receives from the county, Anthony said. The county would then use the money for some of the influence areas outside of various municipalities.

Anthony said the mayors in Cumberland County would like to see this agreement postponed for another five years in order for towns to be able to prep for potential monies that the municipalities will lose. She said the consensus among mayors is that no one is ready for the change.

She said the board would need to vote at its next meeting and she asked that the board be unanimous in its vote to show solidarity.

Alderman Raul Palacios said this topic had been heavily talked about among the municipalities within the county over the years.

“We are not ready to handle this drastic change,’’ he said. “Although it was anticipated, it is certainly to our benefit to come together on this.”

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Anthony also discussed the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Parks & Recreation merger. She said she and Alderwoman Sona Cooper sat down with the Local Government Commission and county staff to discuss roles and an itemized list of buildings, land and equipment.

“The merger is complete and finalized,’’ Anthony said. “We want to know what belongs to the town and what belongs to the county and have the financial piece attached to everything.” 

She said they are working on getting an understanding between the county and town to address service, maintenance and cleaning.

Cooper said the town was still trying to get a seat on the advisory committee.

“We are not going to let that rest,” she said.

In other business, the board voted to declare wrecked vehicles and rusted equipment as surplus so it could be sold on govdeals.com.

Interim Town Manager Jason Williams went through a list and showed photos of neglected, wrecked and broken equipment that he wanted to sell in order to replace for nicer items. 

“We could sink a lot of money into repairs, but there’s no sense in when we sell it so we can get what we need,’’ Williams said. “The goal is that the town looks better than it has been and staff gets good equipment to do it.”

Williams said he had been working to identify vehicles to match some of the titles they had found. He said most had not been disposed of properly and others had been neglected instead of being repaired when they could have been.

“Most are worn out, not running and sitting to the side. We just need to get rid of them,” Williams said.

The board also discussed ordinances to address donation box blight and tractor-trailer trucks going through neighborhoods.  

Staff was directed to draft an ordinance to set parameters for donation boxes, including mandating a phone number, only allowing nonprofit organizations and fining property owners who do not keep the areas around the donation boxes free from clutter and trash.

The board also asked staff to draft an ordinance addressing tractor-trailer trucks from going through residential neighborhoods and parking in areas that blocked business storefronts.

The board spent 40 minutes in closed session citing general statutes for attorney-client privilege and personnel. They came out of closed session with no action taken before adjourning.  

Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView. She can be reached at jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com.  

Spring Lake, Board of Aldermen, sales tax distribution