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 The discount was begun in 1973, but by the late ’80s it was no longer in effect.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.