ST PAULS — Town leaders have decided to sit on a potential $193,000 windfall.
That’s the amount of property tax money the town will not return to Sanderson Farms as stipulated in the incentives deal reached with the chicken processing plant. At least temporarily.
The town can keep the money because there is a clause in the incentives contract that says the town can keep the money if assessed property values inside St. Pauls town limits do not reach a $90 million threshold, Town Administrator J.R. Steigerwald said Friday. The latest assessment was less than $90 million, even with Sanderson Farms inside the town’s boundary.
The town’s Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to buy a certificate of deposit and deposit the money into a bank. The money could be used to meet the incentives deal repayment stipulation, if needed, Steigerwald said.
The contract clause wasn’t initiated this year because the bulk of the property inside the 180,000-square-foot Sanderson Farms plant is machinery that hasn’t been registered on the county tax rolls, Steigerwald said. Because it wasn’t on the rolls the machinery was not counted as part of the latest tax assessment.
Sanderson Farms began operations at its $115 million facility on N.C. 20 just west of St. Pauls in January 2017. It employs 1,300 workers — about 200 more than had been promised — and processes 1.1 million chickens a week.
In other business to come out of Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, town leaders are working to show St. Pauls can support the debt that will be incurred by getting loans to upgrade an aging sewer system.
Complicating the issue is a recent audit that revealed discrepancies between revenue and payouts that the town manager said was caused by an aging computer system.
Up for grabs is a state Department of Environmental Quality grant and loan for clean water services repair worth about $1.6 million, with $500,000 in a forgivable loan and $1.1 million to be paid back over 20 years with no interest.
The audit issue involved invoices that had been received after June 30, the end of the last fiscal year, and placed in accounts for the current fiscal year. With the money in the incorrect accounts, the audit showed the town had a revenue deficit.
Board members were told a new computer system is being used to correct the problems, but it is taking time.
Reach David Bradley at 910-416-5182 or [email protected]