During a meeting that barely lasted 20 minutes, the Laurinburg City Council agreed to extend additional funds to its busy housing condemnation program and to approve the demolition of three city houses in disrepair.
The move to grant an additional $11,108 to the condemnations program was made as part of council’s consent agenda following discussion at its agenda workshop last week.
The allocation represents the sum that remained in the program’s budget during the previous financial year. Since the rollover to the 2012-13 year on July 1 the condemnations program, overseen by city Planning Director Brandi Deese, has condemned and demolished 15 homes and used up the entirety of the $30,000 it was budgeted for the year.
“The additional funds will allow us to get to the locations in the most need,” said Deese last week. The condemnations program works from a list featuring scores of local houses. The list is prioritized based on a number of factors.
City officials say that cleaning up the properties not only boosts property values, but helps prevent criminal activity.
In other business, Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson outlined for council a referendum item put on the ballot by the county Board of Commissioners asking voters whether they would support an additional quarter penny sales tax.
According to Patterson, the tax would add “approximately $600,000 of revenue.”
Per the North Carolina statute that allows for the referendum, it may not be stipulated how the money is spent nor may the ballot question be altered in any way from the proscribed wording.
The county sent out tri-fold brochures last week to likely voters in an effort to increase public awareness of the tax.
Prevented from openly advocating for a yes vote and only permitted to provide information about and answer questions regarding the tax, Patterson has given more than eight informational presentations to various local civic and social groups in the past two months.
“I know this information pretty well now,” Patterson said following the meeting.
Among the main points of Patterson’s presentation was an emphasis on the limited scope of the tax.
“(The sales tax) will not impact you at the stove top or the fuel tank … or the doctor’s office either,” Patterson said, referring to the fact that the tax will not apply to most non-prepared food items, prescription drugs, gasoline or to automobile purchases.
“If you spend $4 it will be an additional one cent — and if you spend $1, it’s actually already in there now because of rounding up to seven cents,” Patterson said. The currently sales tax is currently at 6.75 percent.
Patterson also emphasized the fairness of the tax, which he said will apply to not only property owners, but to everyone, including shoppers visiting from out of town, state or even out of the country.
After Patterson’s presentation, Councilman Curtis Leak asked about how the question will be presented on the ballot. Patterson said that the ballot will have a clear space between the “yes” and “no” voting boxes, with the “yes” answer appearing above the “no.”
“I’m sure (this information) will be disseminated in the community as people watch this meeting,” said Mayor Tommy Parker.
New Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce President Tonia Stephenson was in attendance and recognized by Parker.
Stephenson thanked Parker for the welcome. She began work at the chamber on Monday.