County, Broadway officials clash over sales tax
BROADWAY — Lee County and Broadway officials sparred over benefits and disadvantages of changing the county's sales tax distribution Thursday night.
The Lee County Commissioners met with the Broadway Board of Commissioners Thursday at the Broadway Community Building, located at 111 N. Main St., Broadway, with no formal action taken by either of the boards.
Changing the sales tax distribution method from the current per capita distribution to ad valorem distribution would net an increase of $1.4 million for the county and a decrease of $1.3 million for the City of Sanford and decrease of $104,740 for Broadway. During the joint meeting between the Lee County Commissioners and Sanford City Council held Tuesday, the financial impact to Broadway was incorrectly stated at $140,000 due to a clerical error on behalf of the county.
During Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews' opening statement, he said he was concerned and apprehensive for what was in store for his town.
"With such major changes and so many new faces to the (Lee County board), I was not sure where we stood anymore," Andrews said. "As an elected official of Broadway, I felt it was imperative to inform our community of these potential changes and their impact."
Broadway Commissioner Clemellyn Welch asked the Lee County Commissioners why they were interested in changing the sales tax distribution when it would cause so many negative impacts on the town and city.
The $1.4 million increase for the county could result in a three-cent property tax rate decrease, but Broadway would have to increase its property tax rate by an estimated 12 to 14 cents or cut costs to make up the shortfall, according to Lee County Manager John Crumpton.
Lee County Commissioner Chairman Charlie Parks said the county has to do what is best for all of its residents and the benefit was dropping the property tax rate by two or three cents for all of Lee County.
"We are not trying to do anything against Broadway, not trying to do anything against Sanford," Parks said. "We are just trying to do our job as a county."
During the economic recession, people are struggling to stay in their homes and are relying more on county services, he said.
Broadway Town Manager Bob Stevens said the Broadway budget has very little fat and finding a way to cut $100,000 will mean laying off employees and reducing essential services.
Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack countered by saying he didn't want a tax increase for Broadway and there were other options the Broadway Commissioners could consider.
"Another is to look for a replacement for services," Womack said. "And that has to be done delicately, but there are interlocal agreements that you could enter in to. There are other service providers."
Womack suggested Broadway could possibly contract with the Lee County Sheriff's Office, but Stevens disagreed, saying he spoke to Sheriff Tracy Carter Tuesday and Carter said the Broadway officers provide more support for the sheriff's department than the deputies do for Broadway.
Lee County Commissioner Amy Dalrymple said she's lived in the Broadway area when there was inadequate police coverage and the residents shouldn't have to go through that again.
"We have had things happen and the nearest deputy is 30 minutes away," she said. "And that is unacceptable for these people. And for us to do things either trigger raising their taxes or them cut services and put up with that. That is not good leadership, Jim (Womack)."
The town and county managers agreed to meet to discuss the one formal interlocal agreement between the two boards — tax collection — and to determine when the two boards could meet again to discuss the sales tax distribution change. A date was not set.