County tax cut deserves ovation

Sampson County’s administrative staff deserves a rousing pat on the back, as well as that county commissioner-led standing ovation, for doing the seemingly impossible — proposing a tax cut while still being able to increase school funding and give hard-working employees a much-deserved cost-of-living raise.

Make no mistake, what they accomplished is no easy task and should not be viewed as anything short of tremendous fortitude on the part of staff members working hard for its citizens. Of course, an uptick in tax revenue and sales tax collections contributed to the increased revenue brought into the county, making it possible for county manager Ed Causey and his staff to propose the tax cut.

“There are a number of reasons we feel the reduction in tax rate is appropriate, but primarily because we have experienced an increase in the property tax base that can be attributed to significant industrial growth,” Causey was quoted as saying in a May 24 Sampson Independent article.

The industrial growth certainly contributed to the additional revenue, but we believe it was Causey and his administrative team that made the revenue increases work for so many, starting with taxpayer who, if the budget is passed, will see a tax reduction from 83 cents to 82.5 cents per $100 valuation.

In the scheme of things, the savings doesn’t amount to a lot of money, but in principle it means a great deal. First of all, it is a reduction, something commissioners certainly don’t have to do; and secondly, it’s not a hike, something that could have been proposed given the needs across our great county.

The remarkable thing is that the reduction is being proposed at the same time some of the most critical needs are being met, including a 6 percent hike in per pupil funding for the county’s two public school systems and a 0.75 percent cost of living adjustment for county employees.

What’s more, the tax cut doesn’t come at the expense of other department needs across the county, yet another remarkable feat.

Sampson Community College, the Detention Center, the Sheriff’s Department, the History Museum, rescue, the Board of Elections and county building maintenance, among others areas, will all see increases in certain areas of their respective budgets, meeting some, but certainly not all, of the most critical needs.

While the budget isn’t perfect, and many budgetary wants (as well as some needs) will go unmet, it appears the proposed budget does a great deal to keep the county moving forward, albeit in baby steps, without overburdening the taxpayers to do so.

“We need to demonstrate to the public that we are trying to listen to what is being said and responsibly make decisions …” Causey said in presenting the proposed fiscal plan on May 24.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, we believe Causey and the commissioners are doing just that. In truth, we can’t really expect much more than that from our government leaders. So a pat of the back they shall get, and an ovation as well.