Monday, July 28, 2008

Wildlife property tax reduction

A bill that recently passed the NC General Assembly will change the property tax classification for certain land that benefits wildlife.
The new tax classification for wildlife conservation land can reduce the pressure to sell land caused by increasing property taxes. The bill, HB 1889, introduced by Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro, would help protect some landowners from increased taxes. These tax increases are caused by higher potential value of land that could be developed. An existing law protects land that is actively farmed.

However, the bill was amended in the Senate to apply only to 20-acre or larger properties, rather than the 10-acre minimum the House passed. There is a 10-acre minimum in existing law for farmland.

I hope the General Assembly will reduce the minimum size for wildlife land. The minimum for farmland and wildlife land should be set to five acres.

John Shaw

Monday, June 30, 2008

We must conserve water, but will it save us money?

We must conserve water. If we do not conserve during a drought, we could run out of water, or have cloudy water as the water systems pump from the bottom of the lake.

We do conserve water so, of course, we should be saving money on our water bills. But now we find out that our per unit rates may go up. That’s horrible! Why should we be paying more per gallon when we use fewer gallons?

What people must understand–but many do not understand–is that the water rate, or price per gallon, must go up as we conserve water and use fewer gallons.

The cost of the water services is based on the cost of facilities–the reservoir, treatment facility, and pipes to our homes–and the maintenance of these facilities. Only a small part is based on the amount of water used. As we conserve water we use fewer gallons per month. The cost of maintaining existing facilities and building new facilities remains the same, so the cost per gallon will increase.

The bottom line: Households who conserve the same as the average household will eventually find that their monthly bills are the same as previous bills. Those who conserve more than the average will see decreasing bills; those who conserve less than the average will see increasing bills.

When it comes to water pipes, “we must pay the piper.”

John A. Shaw
Cary, NC

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Transfer Tax

The Realtors are at it again. They intend to spend millions to repeal a law that allows county commissions to, with the approval of the voters, impose a 0.4% transfer tax on the sale of property.

The transfer tax will, if adopted, will provide funds to help build new schools and infrastructure for growth. The cost will fall primarily on commercial property and real estate bought for investment purposes. About one third will fall on residential owners.

In spite of the fact that the tax affects commercial property more than residential property, the Realtors and homebuilders are calling the tax a “home tax”. They have spent millions to defeat referenda in 19 counties by convincing people that this 0.4% cost on the sale will make it difficult to sell a home and that it “taxes the American dream”. Now the NC Association of Realtors has made a commitment to add $10 million to an advocacy fund to continue their efforts to defeat the transfer tax.

Fast growing counties will have to find a way to pay for new school construction. The only way that does not require a referendum is an increase to the property tax. This tax will be paid by all property owners, not just those who are selling property.

The bills to repeal the transfer tax option do not repeal the sales tax option. The sales tax is a very regressive tax, hitting a much larger percentage of the income of a low income person than that of a higher income person.

The Realtors and homebuilders must recognize that the growth in Wake County will force the school district to buy property and to build school buildings. These new buildings and land will come at a much higher cost than existing buildings and land. The county commissions and voters should have the option of placing that tax burden on the growth rather than on the backs of all citizens, including those who do not benefit from the growth. This burden will come in the form of higher sales tax or higher property tax–the real home tax.

John Shaw

Cary, NC

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not a year for increased state and local tax?

Some people say that, with the current economic problems, this year is not one to raise taxes.

Yes, many people’s finances are tight at this time. Families are having to tighten their belts and do without many things they would like to have. Vacation travel, meals in restaurants, and many other things are being cut back. Many families will have to make the decision every time they spend money: must we have this expense?

However, the needs of municipalities, counties, and states continue. School districts have to buy more land and build more schools to handle the increased school population. The construction and land acquisition costs are far higher than they were for existing schools. Streets have to be improved to handle the increased traffic. A larger population will require more services.

A family may be able to do without many things, but we cannot ask them to do without classrooms for their children or roads to drive on. These things must be paid for, and they are paid for with our tax money.

I realize that times are tough for many people. Many people cannot pay higher property tax or higher sales tax on their necessities. However, beer and cigarettes are not necessities. Those who cannot afford or do not want to pay a higher tax can do without them. The legislature should consider these tax increases before they cut needed services.

Transfer taxes affect only those people who have just sold a home or other property, and at the time that they are receiving income from the sale of property. They have been rejected by voters who were led to believe that enactment of the transfer tax would result in a tax increase for everyone. Perhaps they will reconsider when they find out that defeat of a transfer tax will only mean a higher property tax – the real home tax – for everyone.

There are many who, in spite of the current economy, can pay more to provide the schools and services that we need. Shouldn’t we consider an increase of tax for the highest earning taxpayers? Perhaps an additional tax on luxury cars or on heavy gas guzzling cars could be used.

No one wants to pay higher taxes. But the schools, roads, and other services that we depend on must be paid for.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Scientists: no exceptions to seawall ban needed

North Carolina has a law banning the use of “groins” (often known as jetties), man-made devices that reach out into the ocean from the beach. These are often used to prevent erosion of beach sand. However, they are very destructive to beaches “down drift”, that is, further down the beach in the direction of the prevailing current.

Because of the destructive nature of groins the General Assembly prohibited their use (G.S 113A-115.1). However, Ocean Isle Beach and Figure Eight Island homeowners are trying to change the law that would allow exceptions to be made. They claim the exception would be experimental and would establish a “pilot project” to study the use of groins.

A bill (SB 599) has passed the NC Senate to allow exceptions to be made by the Coastal Resources Commission to the anti-groin rule. This would allow, with conditions, groins to be built to protect some beach areas from erosion. The bill will be considered by the House in this year’s “short session”.

A report recently issued by a scientific study group argues against the change. According to the report, there is nothing experimental about groins. The proposed change would require that groins be monitored and removed if damage results from the groin. The report points out that it may take many years for groin impacts to become apparent. By the time they become apparent, removal of the groin will be too late to prevent damage to other areas.

The report, signed by 43 academic and other scientists, can be found at:

John Shaw