I am responding to a letter in the March 14th edition of the Jefferson Post that was less than favorable for the Land Transfer Tax. The gentleman who wrote the letter used some of the classical arguments that opponents have used in other counties. In order to refute these arguments we only need to look at the success reports from Dare, Currituck, Chowan, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Camden Counties. Since implementation, the Land Transfer Tax has allowed these counties to: 1) reduce property tax; 2) increase funding for economic development; 3) reduce reliance on borrowing to build schools; 4) reduce the funding disparities between these school districts and the remainder of the state; 5) keep home values affordable; and 6) to keep residential growth vibrant. These counties were given the authority by the General Assembly in the mid 1980s, to implement the Land Transfer Tax. It was not until 2007 that all other counties were given the option to implement the tax and then only by voter referendum. The counties mentioned above were allowed a rate of 1%, whereas a top cap rate of 0.4% is authorized by the new state law. No more than 0.4% is allowed.
Commissioners are charged with the responsibility to provide quality infrastructure while keeping the property tax rate low. Ashe County has done that. The current tax rate is 39.5 cents. Only nine out of 100 counties have a lower tax rate than Ashe. Incidentally, two of those nine have the Land Transfer Tax.
It is easy for those who clamor for cutting spending to do so without having been in the fray of budget making. When the real needs are seen and revenue is scarce, you have to make cuts. In the 2007-2008 budgets, cuts to the tune of three million dollars were made. The real question is do you really think Ashe County can remain an inviting place and compete in economic development if at most, basic infrastructure and services are not provided? I think not!
The proposed Land Transfer Tax is not an additional tax overall for Ashe County. It is a source of revenue in lieu of an ever ballooning property tax increase. Therefore, the overall tax burden is not increased, it is spread around. A balanced approach to taxation clearly benefits elderly citizens and those on fixed income by lessening the pressure on property taxes. This allows these citizens to remain in their homes without fear of losing them to increasing tax rates or tax values.
Despite opposition from some, the counties who have implemented the Land Transfer Tax have not suffered adversely. The writer of the aforementioned letter suggests that the tax will cause real estate property to soar. Another argument made by the writer suggested that potential buyers will dodge Ashe County. Neither of these happened in those counties in eastern North Carolina where the tax has existed for twenty years.
The writer’s attempted lesson on basic economics seems reversed to me. If a county gives attention to maintaining good basic infrastructure, it certainly is a fact that the county will be in a more competitive position to promote economic development. Subsequently, this attracts additional activity. If basic infrastructure is neglected, there is no attraction to the County.
It’s not a question of taxing ourselves into prosperity; rather it is an effort to monitor overall tax policy and attempt to keep property taxes low. Furthermore, it is an effort to remain aware of and monitor the total tax picture.
Citizens of Ashe County, you have elected us to provide quality infrastructure, while keeping the property tax low. A vote in favor of the Land Transfer Tax on May 6 will help us do that. The wording displayed on signs posted around Ashe County by those opposed to the Land Transfer Tax is totally misrepresenting the facts. I urge each one to carefully analyze the situation. Higher and higher property taxes equate to a “HOME” tax. If you do not plan to buy or sell property you are not affected by the Land Transfer Tax. Therefore, that is not a “HOME” tax on all Ashe County homes. I urge all Ashe Countians to analyze for themselves whether certain higher property taxes on all real estate, or a Land Transfer Tax applied only when real estate sells is a “HOME” tax!
Richard Blackburn, Chairman
Ashe County Board of Commissioners