Study shows Union struggling to shake ‘bedroom community’ label
If Union County wants to lower property taxes, it needs more commercial development. That was a focal point of a study done by Wingate’s business school, on the request of the Chamber of Commerce. New Chamber President Sharon Rosche outlined the data in the study to county commissioners Monday, March 21.
“We’re losing a lot of money to our (neighboring counties),” Rosche said. “I have to go out of the county to get the things I want, which is unfortunate.”
The study shows Union County’s current tax status as 84.9 percent residential and 15 percent commercial. Out of counties of similar size and population across the state, that ranks as the third highest amount of residential, next to Harnett’s 87.2 percent and Chatham’s 85.3 percent.
Last fall, the Chamber commissioned a study to determine how to balance a good quality of life for Union with the constant growth. What the study found wasn’t surprising, as it states more residential buildings require more services.
“Residences require additional education spending and other government services,” the report reads. “To fund these services, the county must continue to raise a significant portion of revenue from residential property taxes.”
As the county struggles to fund those services, the study also cautioned that property taxes couldn’t remain at their current rate.
“Homeowners’ personal property taxes may need to increase to maintain the current quality of life in Union County,” the report reads. Without new commercial, the report said, the county will have to continue cutting services and pay down debt in order to prevent a tax hike.
Rosche said that while there wasn’t a definite number, it would be realistic for Union County to target a 15 percent swing, with residential properties only accounting for 70 percent of the tax base.
The problem with recruiting business is that Union County doesn’t have the requirements for some of the potential fields, Assistant County Manager Wes Baker said. Speaking during a special joint meeting between the Stallings Town Council and county commissioners March 22, Baker explained the big ticket customers, like industrial facilities, have certain requirements.
“Most of the industrial commercial projects, they want to have a building to move in to, they don’t want to take time to build one,” Baker said. “There’s very few actual buildings suitable (in the county).”
In addition, water and sewer continue to be issues, with towns asking both for capacity and also infrastructure improvements, in some cases.
“(The study) shows we have to be as proactive as possible, identifying the challenges in front of us,” county commissioner Jonathan Thomas said.