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Rowan, Salisbury to discuss lowering airport tax rate

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Rowan County will pursue a deal with the city of Salisbury to lower taxes at the county airport with the aim of boosting business.
Commissioners agreed unanimously Monday night to begin discussions with Salisbury on creating an airport development zone.
The county-owned Rowan Airport off U.S. 29 has a higher combined tax rate than any similar airport in the region. The combined county and city tax rate is $1.19 per $100 valuation.
Officials say the tax rate is putting a severe handicap on attracting additional planes and companies.
Of the airports considered to be prime competitors, Statesville has a tax rate of 82.5 cents and Concord has a $1.05 rate.
The Airport Advisory Committee met last week and voted unanimously to support a motion by Jim Sides, a former commissioner and member of the committee.
Sides said Tuesday it’s time to give up on the idea of getting Salisbury to de-annex the airport and get on with reaching a deal on taxes.
“We’ve had several people who wanted to come here real bad,” Sides said. “They’ve seen the tax rate and wouldn’t consider it. When you’re talking about a $6 million to $10 million plane, it’s hard to overcome the extra taxes.”
Commissioner Chad Mitchell serves as a liaison to the airport committee. Other members include Tom Greene, a pilot with Food Lion; Brian Cooker, a retired pilot; Dink Safrit, a Neel Estates resident; and Clay Lindsay, of Summit Developers. Cooker is chairman.
Monday night, Mitchell told other commissioners the owner of a $2.8 million airplane recently passed on keeping it at the airport because of the tax rate.
“Our tax rate is holding us back,” he said.
Mitchell said a lower tax rate could bring in enough airplanes and investment to offset the tax reduction.
The board voted unanimously to authorize Mitchell and County Manager Gary Page to meet with Salisbury and bring recommendations back to the Airport Advisory Committee next month.
Page said commissioners would need to act on any agreement before July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
In another matters, the board approved a three-year contract with Martin Starnes & Associates of Hickory to do the county’s audit. The firm submitted a first-year price of $40,000, beating out Potter & Company’s $41,500 bid.
Potter & Company has done the county audit for the past 12 years.
The finance office sent out requests for proposals to seven firms but received only two proposals. Finance Director Leslie Heidrick said some firms are opting to move away from government audits. She said the county operation is too big for some local firms.
“It’s never a bad thing to have a new set of eyes,” Heidrick said, reflecting on the change.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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