Lincoln County is joining other governments in the region in looking at new ways of handling growing needs of schools.
With a $47 million school bond just approved by voters, the need for new sources of revenue is clear to officials here.
Faced with a swelling amount of school debt that by 2005-06 could reach almost $94 million, the county has looked at impact fees, increasing the sales tax and having a real estate transfer tax in order to bring in money without raising the property tax.
Other counties are doing the same. And now, theyâ€™re teaming up to see if a regional effort will have more of an impact when they approach the General Assembly.
County managers from Lincoln, Mecklenberg, Cabarrus, Gaston, Stanly, Anson and Union have been meeting to discuss how to handle the additional school needs, Lincoln County Manager Stan Kiser said.
Theyâ€™re currently discussing which items would have the best chance of getting through the General Assembly.
Lincoln County commissioners have adopted a resolution asking the General Assembly to approve a real estate transfer tax.
If approved, a 1 percent tax would be placed on all real estate sales. According to county figures, the average real estate transfer tax for 1999 to 2003 would come to about $2.6 million.
But officials have said that could be a long process, and approval could be difficult.
Another option area managers are considering is asking the state to take over funding of Medicaid, which next year will cost Lincoln about $3.5 million. Thatâ€™s 7 cents on the tax rate, Kiser said.
North Carolina is one of just eight states that require counties to make a contribution to Medicaid, Kiser said.
If the state took over that responsibility it would save counties substantially.
â€œThat would free up quite a bit of money,â€ Kiser said.
Kiser said the regional meetings provide eye-opening opportunities to see just what other counties are going through.
â€œItâ€™s amazing to me to sit down and talk with the county manager in Mecklenburg and hear he has the same problems as we do, only 18 to 20 times larger,â€ Kiser said.â€œItâ€™s not just a Lincoln County thing, itâ€™s a metro-Charlotte problem.â€by Alice Smith