At their most-recent meeting, Johnston County Commissioners got updates on issues out of Raleigh.
One bill in the General Assembly would change the way North Carolina distributes sales-tax receipts, shifting large sums to rural counties from urban areas. The N.C. Association of County Commissioners does not support that change, executive director Kevin Leonard told Johnston leaders.
The problem, Leonard said, is the change would benefit some counties at the expense of others.
“There are winner and loser counties,” he said. “The association, and the policy y’all have given us as members, is to support solutions that rise all boats.”
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A bigger issue in the sales-tax debate is getting overlooked, Leonard said. Currently, most counties have sales-tax rates of 6.75 percent, with 4.75 percentage points going to the state and the rest going directly to counties and towns. Under the proposed change, the 2-percent tax for local governments would flow through Raleigh before landing in local coffers, Leonard said.
That raises fears the state might one day decide to keep the money for itself.
Leonard said the Senate’s majority leader, Harry Brown, assured him that would not happen, but Leonard said it’s impossible to know what future state lawmakers would do.
That scenario makes Johnston’s commissioners nervous, Chairman Tony Braswell said, because the state has reneged on similar promises about lottery funds.
“We were promised we would have lottery funds for debt service if we built schools … and we budgeted for that,” he said. “And we see now, at a tune of $2.8 million or $3 million a year cut since they last did that.”
Turning to agriculture, Commissioner Cookie Pope asked Leonard to make sure his association fights for continued state funding of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. As the outreach arms of the agriculture departments at N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University, county extension offices share the latest tips, techniques and best practices with farmers. Other programs include 4-H and food-safety certification.
“With the impact agriculture makes on our county and the entire state, we need to make sure we keep it where it is,” Pope said.
Leonard said the association is highly supportive of Cooperative Extension.
Here are other items from the April County Commissioners meeting.
Pledge of Allegiance: Commissioners decided in March to begin inviting Johnston veterans to lead the opening pledge to the flag. On April 6, the first honor went to three members of Vietnam Veterans Association Chapter 990. Retired Col. Rudy Baker thanked the board for the opportunity.
Appointments: The board filled about 50 seats on county councils and committees that deal with such matters as fire districts, emergency planning, public health, juvenile crime prevention and veterans services.
Benson water: The county changed its water-supply agreement with Benson, allowing the town to comply with state requirements. Johnston now reserves 10,000 gallons per day from Benson for regular use, and Benson reserves 90,000 gallons per day from Johnston. Under the old agreement, Johnson got 500,000 from Benson, and Benson got 200,000 from Johnston. Under the new deal, either entity may purchase up to the old amounts in case of an emergency.