County to ponder hike in sales tax

Bob Shiles Staff writer

January 5, 2014

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners will consider Monday a resolution requesting that the county’s state legislative delegation push for the General Assembly to approve a local 1 percent sales tax increase for the construction of a new county jail and technology high school.

According to the resolution, the antiquated jail is overcrowded, currently in violation of a state mandate for inmate classification, in need of “extreme repairs,” and out of compliance with state mandates regulating how security rounds must be made to appropriately watch inmates and ensure their safety.

The construction of a new technology high school, according to the resolution, would provide county students with “more opportunity to prepare for skilled labor jobs and take college courses prior to graduation.”

The cost of new jail construction has been estimated at about $40 million, while the projected cost of constructing a technology high school is $44 million.

County Manager Ricky Harris has said that funding these kind of large-scale projects is difficult because the county has “no extra money.” Funding options that have to be considered, Harris said, are a sales tax increase or an increase in property taxes. The county’s property tax rate of 77 cents for every $100 of property is already among the highest in the state.

The General Assembly’s permission is needed by local governments seeking to raise the sales tax.

In other business, the commissioners on Monday are expected to:

— Consider a resolution that would establish Robeson County as a “Purple Heart Community.” As a Purple Heart Community, residents of Robeson County would be encouraged to show appreciation for the sacrifices made by local veterans who have received the Purple Heart, a service decoration specifically awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been wounded or killed in combat with a declared enemy of the United States.

The resolution is being requested by Jimmy Goins, former chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

— Hear a presentation from local author Trish Terrell concerning the third annual Book’Em North Carolina Writers Conference to be held in Lumberton next month.

— Consider three rezoning requests. The requests are being made to allow for the establishment of a native tobacco smoke shop and cafe in Maxton; the construction of four apartment buildings in West Howellsville; and the establishment of a truck repair business in St. Pauls.

— Consider two requests for conditional-use permits. The conditional-use permits are needed for the establishment of a native tobacco smoke shop and cafe in Maxton; and the establishment of a barber shop in Saddletree.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the commissioners’ room of the county administration building on North Elm Street.