Up & Coming Weekly

December 26, 2018

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 7 of 28

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM DECEMBER 26, 2018-JANUARY 1, 2019 UCW 7 An article in e Fayetteville Observer three weeks ago left the impression for many that "Cumberland County has been designated one of the most economically distressed counties in the state." e North Carolina Department of Commerce ranked Cumberland County one of the state's 40 most economically depressed areas, designating it a Tier 1 community. Robert Van Geons, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Devel- opment Corporation, said it really isn't all that bad. "Our community is coming together to create jobs and improve the quality of life for our citizens," he said. "While we haven't lost any ground, we have a lot that needs to be done." Since 2007, North Carolina has used a three- level system for designating development tiers. e designations are mandated by state law. ey are incorporated into state development programs to encourage economic activity in all 100 counties of the state. e legislature changed some of the criteria last year, resulting in Cumberland County's distressed category. e revised designations are based primarily on a community's average unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and the ad- justed property tax base per capita. Counties that underperform in any of the four fac- tors may request assistance from the North Carolina Department of Commerce about how to improve their performance. "According to my review of the data, these statis- tics … actually improved," Van Geons said. Since the 2017 rankings, median income is up $2,700, unemployment is down 1.5 percent, and the per capita tax base has risen $1,900. "I feel like the economy, if anything, is getting bet- ter around here," County Commission Vice Chair- man Marshall Faircloth added. "If you take a look at all the retail, hotel, down- town and new industrial activity going on, it rep- resents hundreds of millions of dollars, Van Geons said. "In just the last few years, our organization has worked with companies bringing over 1,800 jobs to Cumberland County." e new Tier 1 designation will make Cumberland County eligible for additional state grants and make it easier for companies to receive incentives for bringing jobs to the county. "We want to move forward and push our way out of Tier 1," Van Geons said. "Meanwhile, we appreci- ate the tools and resources we have now." Fayetteville is the only major metropolitan area in North Carolina that is ranked Tier 1. e most economically disadvantaged counties lie east of the I-95 corridor. ey also include Robeson, Hoke, Sampson, Bladen, Duplin and Scotland counties in southeastern North Carolina. A report released by the North Carolina General Assembly Program Evaluation Division in Decem- ber 2015 makes three core findings regarding the way North Carolina has used the tier system. e first is that using tiers to distribute state funding has not helped the state's most distressed counties as intended. ough created specifically for economic devel- opment tax credits, several noneconomic devel- opment programs now use the tier designations to distribute state money. "Despite the adoption of the tiers by other state programs, it is apparent that Tier 1 counties are not benefiting the most," said Jonathan Morgan, a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government faculty member who has studied the program. Cumberland County's economic growth by JEFF THOMPSON NEWS Since the 2017 rankings, Cumberland County's median income is up $2,700, unemployment is down 1.5 percent, and the per capita tax base has risen $1,900. JEFF THOMPSON, Reporter. COM- MENTS? Editor@upandcomingweekly. com. 910-484-6200. Cumberland County commissioners have agreed to a compromise for the future allocation of local sales tax funds. County Manager Amy Cannon presented the pro- posal to the mayors of Cumberland County's municipalities Dec. 18. Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin was absent and Mayor Pro- Tem Ted Mohn appeared in his place. Mohn says the plan will have to be discussed by city council before the end of January, when the existing interlocal rev- enue sharing agreement expires. Cannon told the Mayor's Coalition that commis- sioners have decided to continue appor- tioning sales tax proceeds by population rather than the tax district method, which most large counties use. State law man- dates that county governments determine which allocation method to use. e per capita method tends to benefit cities and towns. Cannon said the county's proposal is valid until midnight Jan. 31. Without a new signed agree- ment from all nine municipalities by then, county commissioners will vote on whether to change to the ad valorem allocation method at their Feb. 4 meeting. e ad valorem method would divide the tax proceeds by tax district. County government would benefit because the entire county is its tax district. e county is proposing a four-year agreement rather than a 10-year term preferred by Fayetteville City Manager Doug Hewett. Neither Hewett nor Mohn commented on the proposed compromise. Cannon said the four-year plan coincides with the county commissioners' current terms of office. "We've kicked the can long enough," said Falcon Mayor Cliff Turbin. "It's time for us to make a move." Cannon told the mayors the county proposes a payment adjustment based on tax revenue growth from a base established in fiscal year 2020. During the remaining three years, revenue growth would be shared between the county and the municipalities on a 40/60 percent basis. e city proposed that its portion of revenue given to the county and towns be phased out altogether. Turbin, serving as chairman of the mayor's coalition, told the group he was grateful that commissioners were willing to support the population tax distribution method. "In the spirit of continued cooperation, the county is willing to reduce our share of future sales tax growth," Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Jeannette Council said. She reiter- ated Cannon's comment, saying, "e county is willing to continue under the per capita method only if there is an agreement to avoid revenue losses for any local government." If the commissioners were to change to the ad valorem method, the county's general fund could see an increase of almost $3 million in sales tax revenues. Cumberland County Schools could gain approximately $500,000; the county's fire districts could reap $2.9 million; and the Parks and Recreation district could receive $1.3 million. Conversely, all the municipalities would lose revenues. e city of Fayetteville could lose an estimated $5.4 million; Hope Mills could lose $1.1 million; and Spring Lake over $600,000. e board of commissioners voted in 2003 to go to the ad valorem method because of severe revenue losses that resulted from municipal annexations. ey amounted to over $4 million a year, Cannon said, before the 2005 "Big Bang" annexation that cost the county even more. City-county sales tax distribution update by JEFF THOMPSON e county is proposing a four-year agreement.

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