County agrees to lower taxes at airport
By Lee Barnes
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners, still stinging over a 2006 forced annexation by Salisbury, agreed Monday to lower taxes on airplanes and other property at the Rowan County Airport.
In conjunction with the city, the commissioners created an Airport Economic Development Zone, reducing the tax rate on airport-related business equipment from $1.185 per $100 valuation to a more-competitive 80 cents per $100.
The airport has to compete with the lower tax rate at the Statesville Airport, which currently assesses 81 cents per $100 valuation.
The new tax rate applies to aircraft, air charter, car rental and other businesses that use the facility. County officials say there are about 100 planes currently kept at the airport.
The commissioners said none of this would have been necessary if the city of Salisbury hadn’t annexed the airport three years ago. The forced annexation, which the commissioners say they weren’t warned about, effectively doubled taxes at the airport.
Adding to the irritation was the fact that the airport is currently operating in the red, and will need a $157,000 subsidy this year. That money comes from the county’s share of the taxes, with the city free to use its share of the money for unrelated expenses.
The commissioners said they had no choice but to try to make the best of a bad situation created by the city.
“We can complain about the tax rate, but we can’t have the airport de-annexed,” groused Commissioner Chad Mitchell. “We’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.”
The city, for its part, has agreed to set aside one-fourth of its airport tax revenues for an Airport Development Fund, to be used for future projects. The county won’t have to delegate any of its airport money for the fund, but will continue to be responsible for keeping the airport afloat financially.
But the bottom line, the board said, was that the state needs to change the laws that allow forced annexation.
“Forced annexation has made a losing proposition for the airport,” said Commissioner Tina Hall. “Economic development has suffered.”