A conservative think tank has put together an interesting study on tax burdens posed by North Carolina’s 35 largest cities – those with populations of 25,000 or more people. Rocky Mount, we’re happy to say, falls well into the bottom third of the list.
The John Locke Foundation combined city and county property tax revenues, plus sales tax revenue, and divided those totals by the population of each city to determine the average amount of tax per capita for 2012.
Charlotte had the highest tax burden – an average of $2,379.13 per person in 2012. That included an average property tax of $1,503.77 per person and a sales tax of $404.64 per person.
Rocky Mount was 26th on the list. Its average tax burden per capita in 2012 was $1,569.25. That included an average property tax of $886.77 and an average sales tax burden of $244.01.
Let’s be clear. The study is not comparing tax rates. It’s looking more closely at actual taxes paid.
We’ve heard the same grumbling many of you have about the tax rates of Rocky Mount, Nash County and Edgecombe County, relative to tax rates in other parts of the state. But it’s clear from the revenue comparison that property values play a big role in how much we pay, also.
And it’s important for critics to keep in mind that tax rates and property values have little effect on expenses. A fire truck for the city of Rocky Mount is going to cost just as much as a fire truck costs for the city of Charlotte. Sure, you can lower the property tax rate here. But if the property value stays the same, the amount of taxes we pay will make it tougher for the city to provide services at the same level – including the purchase of fire trucks.
Rocky Mount’s ranking is behind those of cities of similar size such as Wilson, Kannapolis, Concord, Garner, Salisbury, Matthews, Holly Springs, Monroe and Mooresville. We’re higher than the burdens posed in Burlington, Goldsboro, New Bern and Greenville.
The lowest tax burden per capita in 2012 was in Jacksonville, where the total was $1,241.57 per person.
Rocky Mount still needs to see improvements in education, crime prevention, utility rates and other factors important to potential employers. But the average tax burden here should not be considered a deterrent to attracting new businesses and industries.