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Roanoke Rapids City Council Tuesday evening tabled a proposed resolution supporting a 1-cent sales and use tax increase referendum on the ballot in November.

Adoption of the resolution would have allowed the city to move forward with requesting the North Carolina General Assembly to pass a bill placing the referendum on the ballot.

The action came during a special meeting at Lloyd Andrews City Meeting Hall and Councilman Wayne Smith made the motion to table and Carl Ferebee cast the second. The motion, with Councilwoman Sandra Bryant attending the meeting remotely, passed unanimously.

Smith said he wanted to table the matter for more research and to look for other ways to raise the money the increase would produce without seeking it through a referendum.

After the meeting Smith said he was not at liberty to immediately say what funds are available to free up dollars currently tied to the city’s approximately $980,000 per year debt on the Roanoke Rapids Theatre.

Smith said there has been no talk of shutting down any city facilities.

City Manager Joseph Scherer said after the meeting there are no plans to shut down any of the city’s facilities. 

He said the current owners of the theater are meeting their financial obligations to the city. The money raised from the 1-cent sales and use tax increase would free up funds to maintain services, he said.

The proposal, according to the resolution on the matter, comes as the city has not raised property taxes in more than 14 years or the sales and use tax in the last 10 years while the inflation rate has increased over 19 percent.

“ … The city of Roanoke Rapids has been extremely frugal in spending and received perfect external audits for the past four years,” the resolution said.

The resolution explains the city’s primary need is to offset the renegotiated loan payment on the theater. “The expense offset would greatly assist the city with funding availability for such needs as economic development funding, capital needs, infrastructure repairs and upgrades and blight removal.”

The proposed resolution continues, “ … The city of Roanoke Rapids has no other income sources as most other cities do such as utilities revenue and the continued inflationary rise in operating expenses necessitates we consider a 1-cent sales tax increase option.”

The additional revenue, according to the resolution, “ … Will allow the city to improve the quality of life for our citizens by helping to meet many of our budgetary needs such as infrastructure repairs and upgrades, critical capital needs and public safety protection.”

It is estimated the sales and use tax increase would generate an additional $1 million in revenue and instead of hitting city taxpayers in the wallet it would “spread the burden among all citizens and regional consumers including I-95 travelers as opposed to an increase in property taxes on a minority of property owners.”

The sales tax would not include such basics as vehicles, gas, medicine and groceries. The legislation would have a sunset date of seven years.