Senate’s budget would hit county the hardest Rowan would get $840,000 more in sales tax revenue if House version goes through

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 23, 2013

SALISBURY — County officials are eyeing the state’s proposed budgets and they’re hoping the House proposal wins out.
Leslie Heidrick, the county’s finance director, said the House budget would help Rowan County in sales tax revenue and in future lottery proceeds.
“That’s a big deal for us. We use lottery funds for debt service for school construction,” Heidrick said. “The House bill has several things that either maintains our revenues or as you saw with the sales tax might increase our revenues.”
Rowan County would see a boost of about $840,000 in total sales tax revenue if the House plan passes, according to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. The money would come from additional revenues outlined in the plan.
On the other hand, the Senate plan would cut food sales tax revenues and sales tax revenues, only marginally replacing it with additional revenues.
The Senate plan would cut about $1.4 million from the county’s budget in those revenues alone, the association’s data shows.
The House and Senate budgets are only about $12 million apart, according to the Associated Press, but the two proposals have significant differences and aren’t expected to be passed before a July 1 deadline.
Rep. Carl Ford said delegates have already been notified that stopgap measures will be enacted if the budget doesn’t pass.
Republicans control both the Senate and House chambers, as well as the governor’s office. But each has offered varying versions of the budget.
Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Mocksville) said the Senate is trying to minimize financial impact on the counties while changing reforming the tax code to make it more business friendly.
“We’ve been working on it to make sure there is little to no impact as far as financial impact,” Brock said.
But Brock also admitted the plan will hurt counties or school systems — like Rowan — that have depended on lottery funds to pay off debt service on school construction.
“It has been said before, never to try to depend on the lottery revenue for construction,” Brock said. “Even though it was part of it. They said don’t try to depend on it. That’s always been a warning for schools.”
Still, Brock supports the plan because he said it puts job growth first and paves a better longterm future for the state.
“We’re looking at what’s going to lead us out of the recession,” Brock said. “It is business and jobs being created out of low tax and common sense regulation that doesn’t get in the way of growth.”
But House representatives argue that counties can’t afford to take more of the financial brunt.
Ford (R-China Grove) said there’s “still plenty of fat” when it comes to the budget. He hopes the budget compromise doesn’t put the onus on counties to come up with the difference.
Ford said the $1.5 million the county has slated to pay for debt service on school construction is critical for Rowan and other counties that rely on those funds.
“That’s a lot of money. Anytime you get up to that amount of money, sometimes you can’t do anything about it but raise taxes. We don’t want to do that.”
Rep. Harry Warren (R- Salisbury) said the House plan presents a “more balanced approach.”
“I think the House plan softens any of the financial pains to the counties,” he said.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.