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Two cents on the sales tax increase

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- New Hanover County is facing a budget deficit of more than $13 million. Commissioners say they have to come up with the money somehow. Before voting on a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase, some residents wanted their questions answered.

"I think everybody in this room probably knows that the expenditures are higher than the revenues at this time," Commission chair Jason Thompson said during a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the Cape Fear Musuem.

Commissioners are going to have to cut services or raise taxes to balance this year's budget. With the quarter-cent sales tax increase on the Tuesday's ballot, residents tried to get a little more clarity.

"If we can alter some of those levels of service that we are mandated to provide, does that not free up some money for some other things that can be used for non-mandated expenses?" asked Owen Wexler.

Commissioner Bill Caster responded, "There are extra teachers and extra staff and all things like that, so it's not like they're not useful and needed, but there's an example of where we've gone beyond the mandate."

"We're becoming a metro shopping area for folks from Brunswick and probably all the way up to Kenansville," pointed out county resident Don Adkins. "And I don't know if folks realize how much money comes from outside our residents."

Commissioner Bobby Greer replied, "That is a tremendous benefit, and in my opinion, I'd rather have the folks from outside our county help pay our bills, not just those of us that live here."

Even if voters approve the sales tax, there's a chance commissioners would still raise property taxes to avoid service cuts.

"If I were running a business, I would make a goal and say what's going to accomplish the job? So why didn't we go for a half a cent?" asked resident Jack Mills.

"State dictates what we can ask for, which is a quarter cent," answered Thompson. "If it were up to me I'd probably ask for about four or five cents, and then I'd drop four cents off the property tax rate."

One county resident asked the commissioners how they would vote on the sales tax. Commissioner Bill Caster was the only one who said he would vote against it.

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