County has to develop commercial base or triple tax rate
If Union County doesn’t expand its commercial properties over the next five years, taxes will have to double. That was the conclusion of a study done by Wingate grad students, who found the county has several issues it needs to address.
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 of Commerce 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.
The Economic Leadership Council, led by chairman Ron Brown discussed the study and examined the current economic situation in Union County, as well as an outlook to future conditions.
“This study shows that Union County currently has an 85 percent to 15 percent ratio of residential to commercial tax base,” Brown said. “If this continues, and the county does not increase its tax base through commercial growth then taxes may need to be doubled or perhaps tripled in the next 5 years.”
In order to improve this situation, Union County needs to attract more business and industry which will slowly begin to even out the ratio of residential to commercial tax rates, without the need to raise taxes elsewhere, Brown said. As of right now, the tax rate of Union County is 6 cents higher than the average county tax rate. Compared to other counties, only two comparable counties had higher.
To help, the study suggests that Union County focus on expanding through six specific industries. That includes advanced materials, aerospace, medical products, building products, e-commerce retail and a data center. Advanced materials was the field highlighted as the one with the most potential. By adding 100 workers in the field, Union would see an influx of $139 million.
“Each of these industries, when expanded, generates growth in other industrial segments within the county,” the report reads. “These indirect and induced effects demonstrate the multiplication effects of economic growth. Commercial investment within the county creates economic opportunities.”
Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Leadership Council said they hope this study will ignite ideas and discussions for possible solutions.
“We are extending invitations to community leaders, policy holders, and anyone in the community to be involved in this discussion and offer any ideas or information that may help with these problems,” Brown said.
Without raising property taxes, increasing the amount of businesses in the county is the only way to generate the revenue needed, the report said. It called for an increase in commercial business from 15 percent of the property to 30 or 40 percent of the property.
“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.”
For the last decade, Union County relied on borrowed money to pay for the additional spending and government services,the report said, cautioning such debt will continue to grow by necessity, continuing to strain the budget.
“If the county maintains the current 85 percent residential proportion, taxes may need to double or triple in the next 5 years,” the report reads. “Diversifying the tax base is not easy, but attracting quality businesses and commercial enterprises will benefit the entire county.”
It is obvious that a change must be made; there are plenty of options out there but it is difficult coming to a conclusion without the input of the community, officials said. Sharon Rosche, president of the Union County Chamber of Commerce ended the meeting asking everyone to create a buzz about the county’s current economic situation.
“There is one way to fix this and that is by moving forward, but the only way to move forward is to address these issues,” Rosche said. “I want to challenge everyone to get involved and spread the word and hopefully we can tackle these problems.”
For more information about the economic study, readers can visit www.progressforunioncounty.com or find information on the Chamber of Commerce’s homepage at www.unioncountycoc.com.