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Finding alternatives to property taxes

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners is wisely looking at alternatives to property tax so that a mounting debt brought on by new school construction and renovations won’t add to that burden. The over-used property tax is not the place to go for these kinds of expenses. Lincoln County’s property-owning senior citizens have already paid their share for schools, and many on fixed-incomes should not be asked to handle additional tax burdens.
It is estimated that if the $47 million school bond issue is approved in May, the property tax will have to be increased by 4.8 cents over three years. Coupled with this year’s revaluation, that could mean higher costs for property owners.
County Manager Stan Kiser presented the board with three alternative ways to bring in money other than raising the property tax: increasing the sales tax; impact fees, which are charged directly to new development to help pay for new schools and infrastructure; and a real estate transfer tax. If sellers pay a 1 percent tax on land transfers at the time of sale, it would generate millions of dollars in revenue for the county. Kiser is recommending the transfer tax, which is a viable solution. The impact fees would be preferable if the county truly wanted new development to pay the way for new schools.
The problem with all of these solutions is getting legislative approval. The board has no choice but to push for that approval and to make a lot of noise in Raleigh if it doesn’t come. Lincoln County Rep. Joe Kiser (who happens to be Stan Kiser’s father) could use his influence to push this through the legislature.We are likely to see a lot of shrugging of the shoulders in Raleigh and hear the old platitudes about how the legislature doesn’t allow such measures. In response we should say it’s time to change. If local governments have to raise property taxes because members of legislature won’t allow them to pursue any other means, the blame for property tax increases lies squarely on their shoulders. by Albert Dozier

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