Commissioner: Sales tax distribution change should benefit community college

Under proposal, CCCC gets 50 percent of county's gains
Feb. 20, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

A change in Lee County's sales tax distribution method would be more agreeable to at least one Lee County Commissioner as long as a portion of the funds support the local community college.

Commissioner Robert Reives, who has previously voted to keep the current sales tax distribution method —  a per capita basis, as opposed to the ad valorem basis some commissioners favor — said Monday he'd be more inclined to support changing the method if Central Carolina Community College received 50 percent of the funds. 

"I am at peace with myself allowing my vote to remain as we have currently done (the sales tax distribution) in the past," Reives said Tuesday after the commissioners' meeting Monday night. "However, I think there is a need to start making more contributions to the community college."

Changing the sales tax distribution method from the current per capita distribution to ad valorem would net an increase of $1.4 million in tax revenue for the county and a decrease of $1.3 million for the City of Sanford and $104,000 for the Town of Broadway. Under Reives' altered proposal, $700,000 of the $1.4 million gained by the county would go to CCCC. Sanford and Broadway would keep their portions of the remaining $700,000.

"It sounds like you want to use the money for a reduction in the property tax (rate)," Reives said Monday. "... We have a smart county manager and staff who, I suspect, can find a way to get a tax reduction without hurting the towns."

Chatham County and Harnett County have found ways during the recession to support the growth of CCCC, Reives said, and a continuing education building and renovations to the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center are badly needed by the college.

"I just thought this is a way to reach a happy medium," Reives said Tuesday. "We are not using it all for ourselves for the sole purpose of trying to appease everyone with a one- or two-cent tax decrease."

Lee County Commissioner Chairman Charlie Parks recently met with the CCCC Board of Trustees and requested it conduct a space-use study — a plan of action to use all of its available space and outline its capital needs for the future.

"Once they bring something back, we'll proceed with the discussion," Parks said.

Reives said he was agreeable to CCCC trustees performing a space study and reporting back to the commissioners as the first step.

"It's a good first start," he said. "And if I were a trustee, I'd be lobbying for the 50-50 deal."

In other matters, commissioners:

* Unanimously voted to revise a portion of the board's code of ethics, striking all mention of making pledges or promises. The altered section originally discouraged commissioners and candidates seeking a commission seat from signing pledges, making campaign promises or misrepresenting themselves or their qualifications, among other items. The section was rewritten to state "county commissioners have a civic responsibility to promote good government by any and all appropriate means."

* Considered a presentation on the overlay of mineral rights in Lee County by Strategic Services Director Don Kovasckitz. The Lee County Strategic Services Department reviewed land deeds and developed a GIS layer — or map highlighting a particular criteria in Lee County —  for mineral rights ownerships and natural gas and oil leases in the county. The map, according to the Kovasckitz, is designed to give land owners and gas or oil speculators a basis for ownership of the mineral rights to see if there could be potential title concerns.

* Set a deadline of Feb. 25 for individuals to apply for the newly-formed Lee County Environmental Review and Advisory Committee. Applications to join the nine-person board are available online at www.leecountync.gov or from Lee County Clerk's Office, located at 408 Summit Drive.