Carteret County and its 11 municipalities are facing a tsunami of growth resulting from increased interest in the quality of life afforded by our coastal geography and the impending construction of a U.S. Interstate Highway (I-42) terminating here. If the county and municipal leaders are not careful and thoughtful, this growth will result in regional disputes that will only exacerbate current problems and make their solutions costly.

Manifestations of this growth are seen with numerous rezoning requests countywide as competition between commercial and residential interests collide. Added to these requests are infrastructure concerns such as water and sewer services and storm water management. This has become an acute problem for Bogue Banks towns and a chronic problem for the mainland towns where most of the commercial and industrial development is happening.

Carteret County commissioners are now planning for the coming fiscal year budget. Among the considerations is a continuing request from two mainland towns- Cedar Point and Newport- asking that sales tax revenues, returned to the county by the state, be allocated based on a per capita formula. Currently sales tax revenues are distributed using a formula based on ad valorem taxes which benefit the four beach towns of Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach, Emerald Isle and Beaufort. Based on 2019-20 revenues Morehead City benefits slightly more using the ad valorem formula.

Newport town officials are leading this effort due to the growing stress that the town is experiencing as the county’s population expands. As the largest town in geography and second largest in population, the town comes in sixth place in sales tax receipts among the county’s 11 municipalities.

Newport is not the only town that is beginning to feel the impacts of growth but it will experience the greatest stress since that will be where I-42 terminates and merges with the existing Highway 70 corridor coming into Morehead City.

But there is more to the town’s concern about highway development. As noted, it is the largest town geographically and as a result has the largest area for residential expansion, an issue that the county, particularly the beach towns need to consider.

Former Town Manager Chris Turner, promoting the change in distribution formula last year, noted that Newport is the county’s primary residential community able to provide workforce housing which he argued is a critical need for the county.

“We have reached a ‘must act threshold,’ ” Mr. Turner noted in a March 2020 e-mail to the News-Times. When we ask the question, ‘why are we unable to attract and sustain a workforce of adequate capacity to service our businesses?’ the critical factor in that answer points to inadequate sales tax distribution across our three largest municipalities, who carry the lion’s share of our existing in-county workforce.”

Mr. Turner’s concerns were accurate a year ago and even more so now as the county’s economy continues to grow despite the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no question that current sales tax distribution formula does not take into consideration the difficulties that Newport and the other mainland towns are experiencing.

On the ‘flip side’ of this issue is the fact that the tourist-centric towns on Bogue Banks and Beaufort are dealing with immediate demands to support the county’s largest industry- tourism. These demands also require financing for services and for infrastructure to sustain the tourism economy which is supported by the current distribution process using the ad valorem formula.

Newport, and the other mainland towns, are rightfully concerned that there is no financial consideration of their current and future value. And that value, particularly providing the land areas for residential growth which will, in-turn, support the workforce to fill the jobs both in manufacturing and service industries is equally important and warrants support.

The dispute over sales tax distribution which is creating a growing divide among regions of the county, pitting town against town, does little to solve the problems caused by the changes that are coming fast, and like a tsunami, cannot be stopped.

There are limited financial resources but there is unlimited imagination and opportunity if the municipalities, with the county commissioners’ support, are willing to consider different ways to fund the services that are needed.

(10) comments

beachmami13

There has been loads of $ pouring into this county for the hurricane, flooding, pandemic and so on. The county has been CHOOSING to spend this frivolously - think million dollar admin building, million dollar playground, etc. Now that the needs of the population are actually being seen, it should become more & more apparent that the county should have used the money more wisely and saved for a rainy day. The county laid off employees, without a care, then spends $ and $ for things that aren't necessary - they are needs, not wants. For years, the locals have complained about the need for more services and things for the year round residents to do - not just tourist based activities. Now suddenly PNS is worried about attracting younger people. Suddenly all of the beach town towns want additional $ to do what they should have done with that $ pouring in.

Why was the money spent in the first place instead of set aside to pay for the infrastructure? Why is the money spent in the way that it is instead of the county making plans for the future? We had an amazing year of tourism $ last year - where did that $$ go? How did it help locals & future infrastructure?

mpjeep

Seems like Newport and Cape Carteret want to use the Robin Hood philosophy of taking from the rich to give to the poor.

mpjeep

Shouldn’t sales taxes be distributed “where” they are generated?

If money is so tight, and I don’t believe it is, then looks like we should have voted for the sales tax increase in 2020 as I-42 brings more spending folks to our county.

klacy

Currently sales tax revenues are distributed between the towns using a formula based on property tax values. Some of the mainland towns are requesting distribution on a per capita basis - population. Not sure how property values relate to sales tax generation. Properties do not pay sales tax - people do. Property tax revenues should definitely be distributed based on property tax values.

drewski

Logical and on topic, thanks!

David Collins

Where do you think it has gone ? Self included projects . Follow the money . Not about you and yours , about them .

David Collins

Miami is correct in asking where has all these funds gone ? Have they been squandered like so many other funds have been ? Time to fess up if you are man enough to do such things . If not , step down in shame .

DeadBolt

IMO, the reason this 'Gov' scheme doesn't work is because it requires no investment from the so called 'planer's. These people have no skin in the game at all, and most likely never will. The structures of all of these multiple forms of CONTROL, are never going to work to the benefit of the actual people being billed, plain and simple. However, when they get so polluted as to continue to poke the bee's nest, well , eventually, you get stung, sorry.

dc

Local is important but small potatoes compared to what might be coming with unimaginable amounts of printed $ thrown into the wind mosting as political payoffs and to perpetuate Leftist policies and failures. Trillions being approved for future payoffs while trillion still setting on the table. Standby for inflation and real possibility of the hyper type.

beachmami13

[thumbup][thumbup]

Really good point! What happens to this area after hyperinflation & a drop in tourism bucks? Who will still be here to support all of the local small businesses? It'll be the locals, not the tourists, b/c we care about this area. It would be cool if we were appreciated equally as such.

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