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City leaders show ‘belligerence’ at meeting

 After reading Friday’s article about the debate concerning city-county contracts, I’m even more concerned about the questionable decisions our city leaders are making on behalf of their constituents. We have two city councilmen working on a new agreement with the county who have rarely, if ever, shown an inclination or ability to represent city taxpayers in a fiscally responsible manner. I can’t imagine how their intervention in this matter will improve the agreements that were negotiated under the leadership of our Mayor, but we can only hope that the county is willing to go back to the table in an effort to examine services with an eye toward more efficiency at a mutually beneficial cost. Larry Mac Hovis was quoted as saying that the city shouldn’t have to “bow down” to the county, and the belligerence exhibited by that kind of comment will probably get in the way of productive talks that could benefit city and county alike. Hopefully our city leaders will think before they speak and work in a bipartisan manner to address an issue that could very well benefit our community.

 

Sam Ausband, Jr.

Lincolnton

It might be legal, but it’s not fair

 

 It might be legal, but it’s not fair!

That statement was repeated by several City Councilors last Thursday evening as they reviewed draft proposals from the County covering a variety of topics. Actually, I think they’re wrong — fairness is required: “…taxation shall be exercised in a just and equitable manner…” North Carolina Constitution Art V, Sec. 2. (1).

The point that mostly escapes our political leaders is that if you tax one group of citizens to support a benefit to a different group, that’s a violation of the state constitution.

Also heard at the meeting:  “City residents pay County Taxes too.”

Correct. The draft agreements ask the City to pay 21 percent (based on call volume) of the 911 Call Center expenses but City taxpayers are already paying 13 percent (based on population) with their County taxes. So the correct charge should be 8 percent.

Similarly, with Animal Control the County wants to charge 18 percent but it really should be 5 percent (18 percent – 13 percent).

The county collects taxes on behalf of the City, County Fire Departments, Water and Sewer Departments and Landfill and charges some of them a 3 percent collection fee which matches the costs. However, the County Fire Departments aren’t being charged that fee, so either that should change or the City Fire Department should be charged somewhat less to account for that.

The City’s hands are also not clean. There’s no cost justification to charge the County double for Water and Sewer service to the Sheriff’s Office, Jail and Animal Shelter – which are legally not inside the city limits, but are surrounded by city water and sewer lines. State law prohibits transferring tax money to or from Utility departments, so whether or not the Sheriff pays real estate taxes is irrelevant. The City has refused County requests to annex those properties, which might be why the County is being hard-nosed.

On the County side, the draft contracts basically use the County’s water customers (only 25 percent of the population) as bargaining chips to extract concessions from the City. Those 25 percent are being told to spend almost $300,000 annually for city water, needed or not, in return for saving all county taxpayers $52,000 in utility fees for the Sheriff, etc.

Further water purchases by those 25 percent (the water customers) will generate lower (in-City) water and sewer rates for customers in the Lincolnton Industrial Park and those connected to the Airport and Timken area lines. So again, County water customers are being charged to benefit other people.

Our political leaders need to carefully look at what they’re doing, and re-read the State Constitution which they all swore to uphold.

Martin Oakes

Denver

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