ELIZABETHTOWN — The idea of a quarter-cent sales tax was floated out once again during Monday’s regular meeting of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners, except that the potential beneficiary was aimed at property owners rather than the Board of Education.
Bladen County voters have nixed a quarter-cent sales tax referendum three previous times — 2010 and twice in 2014 — by substantial margins.
But Chairman Charles Ray Peterson tossed out the idea that voters might be more likely to approve the sales tax if it could save them money in the long run.
“I want to see the sales tax on the ballot again to lower property taxes,” he said. “It would lower the property tax by 2 cents, from 8 cents to 6 cents (per $100 of assessed valuation).
“This isn’t to take away from education, but we’ve tried three times and haven’t come close,” he added. “I’m just one vote, so I want to know what y’all think.”
Commissioner Delilah Blanks didn’t think much of the proposal.
“Why would we do it again when nobody wants it?” she asked.
“Well, it wasn’t supported for education, but it might be for lowering property taxes,” Peterson responded. “I think we need to do this to help the 30 percent of folks who own property here. Right now we’re leaving a big chunk of money untapped.”
Commissioner Michael Cogdell said he was interested in seeing a quarter-cent sales tax used for a number of projects.
“I’d like to see the money used for more than one thing,” he said. “Like part of it for education, part for EMS, part for property taxes, etc.”
The debate got stuck in neutral as Blanks continued to say the referendum has already been vetoed by the voters and Peterson who said voters might be inclined to feel differently if it cut their property taxes.
In the end, the suggestion was slated for additional discussion art the commissioners’ next regular meeting.
Also on Monday, the commissioners went into a closed session and appointed Renee Davis as the county’s new tax administrator/assessor at a salary of $57,715 per year.
Davis has been doing the job on an interim basis since the dismissal of Chris Ellis this summer.
“She (Davis) is qualified and in-house,” Peterson said. “We know what we are getting with her — and she stepped in at a tough time and done a great job.”
The appointment was approved by a 6-3 vote among the commissioners, with Blanks, Cogdell and Arthur Bullock casting the no votes.
In other business:
— Commissioners recognized retiring Bladen County Sheriff’s Office Det. Sue Lutz with a plaque. Lutz worked in Bladen and Robeson counties for the past 25 years and her retirement officially began on Nov. 1.
— Peterson suggested to the board that those recognized for five-year, 10-year, 20-year and other anniversaries by the county have their certificates framed, receive a pin and a $10 gift card. The idea will be discussed further at the next meeting.
— Marian McGovern of Elizabethtown requested the county look into the addition of body cameras for the sheriff’s deputies. She told commissioners the cost is $25 per camera per month and said a feasibility study would be a good start. Peterson told her he would get with Sheriff Jim McVicker and get back with her in the next day or two.
— The Cry Out American team requested that a monument be erected at the flag poles on the front lawn of the courthouse to recognize those who serve the county in emergency services. The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the monument at no cost to the county.
— County Manager Greg Martin said the county will open bids for the proposed county jail construction on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. at the Powell-Melvin Building.
— Commissioners approved giving $250 to the Bladen County Veterans Day Ceremony and $200 to the Bladen County United Way Day of Caring.
The county commissioners will meet again on Monday, Nov. 16, at 6:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.