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Sides backs off pledge of no tax hike

SALISBURY — Echoing County Manager Gary Page’s comments in the proposed budget, Rowan County Commission Chairman Jim Sides said he may not be able to stand behind his longstanding no-tax-increase policy next year.
“I’ve never supported a tax increase since being elected a county commissioner in 2004,” Sides said at a commissioners meeting Monday. “I’m here to tell you that next year I may not be able to take that position. I would not sign a no-tax-increase pledge because I do think next year, if the economy doesn’t pick up, if there aren’t some changes, we will have to see a tax increase next year.”
In a proposed budget last month, Page said the county should start preparing itself for possible tax increases as the lagging economy drains the county’s reserves.
“Without a better economy, the tax base and sales tax will lag and force the board to consider raising property taxes in order to balance the budget in 2014-15,” Page wrote. “The alternative is to begin cutting public services.”
Page said another stagnant fiscal year could result in a 3-cent property tax increase per $100 value.
Sides said his re-election campaign won’t factor into the decision to raise taxes if the need is there.
“By the way, that’ll be an election year for me,” he added. “I don’t make decisions based on whether I’m going to get a vote or lose a vote. I make decisions based on what I think — to the best of my ability — is the best thing to do.”
SALISBURY — Commissioners are expected to vote on a proposed 2013-14 general fund budget after coming to a 2-2 deadlock vote last Monday.
The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Monday on the second floor of the J. Newton Cohen Rowan County Administration Building.
County leaders passed all budget sections other than the general fund budget, with funding for the Rowan-Salisbury School System and the Rowan County Economic Development Commission coming under fire.

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