Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and council members delivered a message Tuesday to legislators: Please don’t cut Cary’s revenue streams without helping the town compensate for losses.
The Town Council held a dinner at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center with the town’s representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly.
Revenue streams were among the issues covered during the annual gathering. Issues related to the aesthetics of residential housing, fracking and annexation also were discussed.
State lawmakers are scheduled to convene in Raleigh on Jan. 28.
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Last year, the legislature stripped local governments of the ability to levy a privilege tax, a move that Weinbrecht said cost Cary about $1.7 million. Republican leaders now are considering redistributing sales tax revenues in a new way that benefits rural areas but that some say will be a detriment of urban areas.
Council members sat on either side of seven state lawmakers at a long table as Weinbrecht told them that Cary is “very afraid” that the town could lose revenues equivalent to three cents on the town’s 35-cent per $100 property tax rate.
“If you could do anything to make us (financially) whole, that would really help us a lot,” Weinbrecht said.
Four Democrats – Reps. Gale Adcock, Duane Hall, Robert Reives and Sen. Josh Stein – and three Republicans – Reps. Marilyn Avila and Nelson Dollar and Sen. Tamara Barringer – attended the dinner.
Weinbrecht told the group he’s puzzled why the legislature seems to be targeting some of the state’s most successful cities and asked them why rural legislators are pursuing a redistribution of sales tax revenues.
“It’s money. It’s envy,” Stein said. “A lot of the rural areas just aren’t growing. They think they can take a pound out of Wake County’s hide without hurting the goose that lays the golden egg.
“They say their people come to Raleigh to shop, so they should get (more) money back to their counties,” he added.
Avila said she’s concerned about the deterioration of rural areas. But, she said, there are “shortcomings in the rural areas that ... pouring money into is not gonna fix.
“My question is: what are (rural areas) gonna do with (the money)?” she asked rhetorically.
Dollar said he thinks the government already transfers money from urban areas to rural areas through other programs.
“We are all concerned about the rural areas of our state,” he said. “I think maybe we can do that without burning municipalities.”
The town has held similar dinners every year since 2011. The total cost of this year’s dinner was $332, according to the town.
Weinbrecht also asked the group to preserve the town’s power to regulate the aesthetics of residential housing and to establish a revenue source that would compensate municipalities that sustain infrastructure damages caused by hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
State lawmakers didn’t address fracking, but Dollar said Cary will likely lose its power to regulate housing aesthetics.
House Bill 150 passed the state House last year but got hung up in the Senate. It would prohibit municipalities from withholding building permits based on a builder’s design elements, such as his building materials or garage size.
“Honestly, that’s probably likely to pass” this year, Dollar said. But he said the town may prefer a new version of the bill over the original one.
Weinbrecht said he appreciated Dollar’s honesty.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Weinbrecht said, before making one final plea: “Developers can build what they want and leave and not have to deal with it.”