Rockingham Co. leaders consider ways to solve deficit

WENTWORTH, N.C. — Rockingham County Commissioners are setting aside an idea to add a local option sales tax to the ballot in November, but the county manager says they have to address budget shortfalls somehow soon.

County Mananger Lance Metzler says a variety of funding from the state stopped or decreased in recent years, creating a shortfall in revenues for debt service for school projects.

“We’ve got a $1.5 million deficit we’ve got to come up,” he said. “We’re not getting the lottery money we expected from the state, and Average Daily Membership revenue is gone.”

Metzler says their options for making up the shortfall are limited.

They could increase property taxes. They could cut county services and eliminate positions. Or voters could opt for a quarter-cent local option sales tax.

Metzler pointed out, a local option sales tax would not apply to gas and groceries.

It would apply to anyone eating, traveling through and spending money in Rockingham County, versus a property tax increase that would burden only property owners in the county.

“It’s twenty-five cents if you are buying a hundred dollar pair of new shoes. It’s $2.50 if you are buying a $1,000 television.”

Some shoppers FOX8 talked to in Madison and Reidsville were very opposed to the idea of any new taxes. Others said they could probably swallow the tax “pill” knowing it would go to schools.

Superintendent Dr. Rodney Shotwell said the school system has more than $120 million in capital needs to plan for.

He pointed at other counties opting “yes” for local option sales taxes.

“In May you had Davidson County, and you had Davie County. Both are conservative counties. If they are taking advantage of it, then Rockingham County should be able to take advantage of it.”

He continued, “Like I said. It’s not ideal. Nobody wants to tax people by any stretch of the imagination. But I think it would be a revenue source. And it’s not just for us. It’s also for the community college.”

A sales tax would generate about $1.5 million annually, which Commissioners could use toward school debt and future school needs.

Commissioners plan to consider the local option sales tax again at their second meeting in August. They could vote to put it on the November ballot, then voters would ultimately decide on whether to implement the tax.

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