ELIZABETHTOWN — As expected, the Bladen County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution that puts the quarter-cent sales tax back on the ballot. But this time, the benefactors will be property owners.
Chairman Charles Ray Peterson initially suggested the referendum at the first meeting in November, and it was met with push-back from Commissioners Delilah Blanks, Michael Cogdell and Arthur Bullock.
On Monday, those same three repeated their opposition to the referendum.
“A sales tax referendum has been put out statewide 106 times and it’s passed only 29 times,” Cogdell said. “If we do it, I would like to see it go to education, EMS and economic development evenly.”
“If we reduce the tax now and come up short, will we come back and ask for more later?” Bullock asked. “My choice is for it to go to EMS and education.”
“Voters have had the opportunity to vote on this three times,” said Blanks. “They have spoken. I understand this could reduce the tax assessment by 2 cents, but unless it is to be used for the needs of this county, I cannot and will not support it.”
Commissioners Jimmy Smith, Daniel Dowless, Billy Ray Pait and Wayne Edge all said they supported a referendum to be used to reduce property taxes.
Peterson said, if passed, the quarter-cents sales tax would realize about $500,000 in revenue.
“We’ve put money into the budget for EMS and economic development,” he said. “And voters didn’t want it going to education, so we’ve told the school board to stick to its budget. It’s time we give back to the taxpayers.”
Pait made the motion to put the sales tax referendum on the March ballot, Edge seconded the motion and a 6-3 vote passed the measure. Blanks, Cogdell and Bullock all voted against the referendum.
Also on Monday, Clerk of Court Niki Dennis swore in Elizabeth Davis as the county’s new tax assessor.
In other action, the board:
— Held a moment of silence for those in Paris.
— Approved giving a $15 gift card to those recognized by the board for their years of service.
— After a presentation, approved adopting a Bladen County Comprehensive Transportation Plan Resolution. The plan, which is only a list of needs with no funding attached, includes widening 20 miles of Hwy. 87 to four lanes and 4 miles of N.C. 20 to four lanes.
— Passed a revised resolution regarding a Rock Ramp Archway at Lock & Dam No. 2. It was also announced that Lock & Dam No. 1 would host a 100-year celebration on Saturday at 10 a.m.
— Heard from Sheila Rains, RN, with the county’s Health & Human Services Agency on disease numbers. Rains said HIV cases were coming down; syphilis numbers were up slightly; there were no new tuberculosis cases; and cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever were up.
— Also heard from Health & Human Services Director Wayne Raynor, who asked for approval on continuing agreements with Fayetteville State, Elon University, Bladen Community College, N.C. State University, Stanbio Lab and On Target Preparedness for the next year. The agreements were approved.
— Appointed Jerry Graham to the Bladen County Jury Commission.
— Appointed Barbara Hollingsworth to the White Lake Planning & Zoning Board of Adjustment.
— Approved the final budget for Bladen Community College totaling $16,073,862.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.