Beaufort County joins property-tax relief bill

Published 6:28 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2007

By Staff
Seeks to remove age, income limits
News Editor
Beaufort County commissioners endorsed the property-tax relief bill that “has the most momentum” in the Legislature, but they nixed the age and income limits in portions of the proposal.
The bill they support — Homestead Exclusion Modifications — was introduced in February by state Sen. Harry Brown of Onslow County. It offers tax breaks to people who have owned property in the county for 10 years, which Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill termed “more lenient” than the 25 years of ownership the commissioners discussed in a March meeting.
Further, the bill does not allow counties to “chase property taxes on a county-by-county basis,” Spruill said. Commissioners had hoped to be able to recoup 10 years’ worth of actual tax value if property covered under the homestead bill changed hands. Such an option would require a statewide bill.
Still, Spruill said Brown’s bill “has the most momentum” in the General Assembly, so commissioners will seek to modify income limits presented in two portions of the bill. One section of the bill limits property owners’ annual incomes to $18,000 per person, while another section limits incomes to $50,000. Commissioner Stan Deatherage said those income limits need to be “knocked out.”
There is another piece of the bill that calls for limits on both age and income. Under the “permanent residence tax deferral” section of the bill, a dwelling that is the permanent residence of a “qualifying owner” would be designated as a special class of property.
Qualifying owners would have to be at least 65 and would earn no more than $25,000 a year alone or $34,000 as a couple. Taxes on “permanent residence” property could be deferred until the property changed hands.
When commissioners were discussing eradicating age and income limits there, too, Spruill said he thought doing that would make the item “Mr. Dangerous.”
Commissioners decided to leave limits there in place.
In a related item, Deatherage made a motion — seconded by Commissioner Hood Richardson — that Commissioner Robert Cayton be asked to invite Beaufort County’s legislators to come talk to commissioners about things going on in the Legislature.
Cayton, during the commissioners’ meeting last Thursday, said he had always found state officials to be “100 percent responsive” to requests he made.
Cayton tried to amend Deatherage’s motion to say commissioners would be willing to go to Raleigh for a discussion on legislative happenings, but the amendment failed on 4-3 vote, with Deatherage, Richardson, Commissioner Al Klemm and commissioners’ Chairman Jay McRoy defeating it.
Commissioners Ed Booth, Jerry Langley and Cayton supported the amendment.
After the amendment failed, the original motion to have Cayton invite Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, and Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, to meet with commissioners in the county passed 4-3, with the Deatherage, Richardson, Klemm and McRoy voting yes. Booth, Langley and Cayton voted against the measure.