BOARD PRODDED ON ISSUE OF EARLY-PAY DISCOUNT

KERNERSVILLE Former Alderman Brian Green and some of his allies appealed
Tuesday for tax breaks for residents who pay their property taxes early, but
the Kernersville Board of Aldermen took no action on their request.

At issue was a 2 percent tax discount that was given in former years to
residents who paid their taxes before a certain date early in the fiscal year.
The discount was begun in 1973, but by the late ’80s it was no longer in
effect.

Because the discount was never formally revoked, Green said, its rules still
apply and taxpayers deserve refunds. When it became clear that the aldermen
wouldn’t act on his request, Green submitted a written request for a refund for
the 1998-2002 tax years.

“The most onerous tax in the United States is the property tax, with almost no
recourse,” Green told the aldermen. He quoted Bill Cobey, a Republican
candidate for governor, as saying that North Carolina taxes are too high and
create an unfavorable climate for business.

Research of board minutes show that the tax discount was approved for
Kernersville in 1972. Throughout the 1970s, the aldermen stayed with the tax
discount, sometimes changing the date on which it applied. But there are no
references to a tax discount in the minutes of the board since January 1981.
Although the town turned over tax-collection responsibilities to Forsyth
County, Green said, the county tax collector is responsible for applying the
discount to early payers.

John Wolfe, the town’s attorney, disagreed that the resolution authorizing the
discount is still in force. The resolution that established the tax discount
represented the will of the board that passed it, but it doesn’t have the legal
force of an ordinance. The board’s failure to keep giving the discount had the
effect of repealing the earlier board’s resolution to put the discount into
effect, Wolfe said.

Joyce Krawiec, the Forsyth County director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a
lobbying group that works for lower taxes and less government, supported Green
in his request. Krawiec argued that the discount is a moneymaker for local
government because it encourages people to pay their taxes early, thus allowing
governments to collect interest on the revenue that they would otherwise lose.

Krawiec said she called tax officials in other counties where the discount is
available and “most… say it is the best way to do it.”

Harvey Pulliam, a local citizen, also spoke in favor of the discount during the
meeting.

Town Manager Randy McCaslin said that the county tax computers are not set up
to handle the discount and it could cost from $80,000 to $200,000 a year for
the town to collect its own taxes.

That wasn’t an argument that tax-break proponents were buying. They said that
the tax office computers should be programmable to award the discount, since
some senior citizens already get a tax break.

Green brought up the tax issue toward the close of the 2003 campaign for seats
on the board of aldermen. He came in sixth place in the five-seat contest.

Wesley Young can be reached at 727-7381 or at wyoung@wsjournal.com

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