County officials support proposed land-transfer tax

Published 1:02 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2007

By Staff
Board considers recommended levy as a revenue source
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
PLYMOUTH — In an ongoing struggle to secure adequate revenue for county projects, support for implementation of a land-transfer tax surfaced during the Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night.
The tax would be a one-time levy of 1 percent of the selling price of any piece of real estate sold in the county, unlike property taxes that are paid annually. If the county had the land-transfer tax in place for fiscal year 2005-2006, it would have received an additional $327,331 in revenue, according to Wanda Wrightson, the county’s tax administrator. Revenues collected from the tax would go into a special capital reserve fund to be used at commissioners’ discretion.
The county’s property tax rate stands at 79 cents per $100 valuation. It is the source of 44 percent of the county’s budgeted revenues for this fiscal year, according to Wrightson. To bring in a sum equal to what a transfer tax would generate, the property-tax rate would have to be raised four cents to five cents, something Corey said he wants to avoid.
Chowan, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Dare, Currituck and Camden counties already have a land-transfer tax. Those counties seem to have greater economic activity than Washington County, Wrightson said.
County Manager David Peoples spoke in favor of the land-transfer tax. Peoples said he believes the tax would be the least burdensome on the county’s general population when it comes to increasing revenue for the county.
If commissioners decide to pursue implementation of a land-transfer tax, they would have to adopt a resolution requesting the Washington County Board of Elections hold a county-wide referendum on the matter. Voters would have to be notified about the referendum at least 45 days before it’s held. No date was set for such a referendum.
Corey said getting word out about advantages of the proposed tax should be a county priority.
Before recessing, the commissioners went into a closed session to discuss an obstacle in the road to finalizing the sale of the county’s hospital. The board was expected to sign the contract with Hospital Management Consulting on Monday. But Peoples said that he was not in a position to ask commissioners to approve the agreement at that time.
HMC is going with a different entity to finance the deal, according to Peoples. Parts of the contract have to be rewritten address that change, Peoples said. The revised contract will be presented to the board at its April 2 meeting, he said.