Dobson asking county to reinstate ‘stipend’

At last week’s meeting of the Dobson Town Commissioners, Town Manager Josh Smith told the board that the town would likely not receive a $25,000 payment from the county in lieu of property taxes on county property within the town limits.

According to Smith the county has about $70 million in real property within the town limits of Dobson. That property, per statute, is not taxable by the town. According to Smith the property, if taxable, would equate to about $266,000 in revenue for Dobson.

Smith said the Dobson Police Department responds to calls at each of the properties and the town funds the infrastructure improvements that support properties such as the Surry County Government Center and the courthouse.

Smith said that the stipend went toward providing the services on which county officials rely in Dobson. However, Smith told his board that it’s unlikely the town will see the payments reinstated anytime soon.

Smith also conceded that he knew of no other county in North Carolina in which county government provided such a stipend to the county seat in lieu of property taxes.

Surry County Board of Commissioners Chairman R.F. “Buck” Golding said that the issue of the stipend dates back even to the first time he was elected to the board in 1994. Golding said that the stipend was removed from the county budget by that board at one point but was reinstated later. Since then he said the stipend has been “on again, off again.”

According to Assistant County Manager Betty Taylor the stipend was in place in 1990 when she first came on board at the county. She said the stipend was cut in the 2000-01 fiscal year’s budget to $15,000. It was again cut in 2003, when the county made a 5 percent across-the-board cut to expenditures.

In the 2008-09 fiscal year Taylor said the full $25,000 stipend was reinstated. Taylor said that was cut from the budget in the current fiscal year. However, She said the stipend was approved by means of a mid-year budget amendment in the 2013-14 fiscal year. She said that was done because the town had budgeted to have the $25,000 in the bank.

According to Taylor, County Manager Chris Knopf’s recommended budget does not include a stipend for the town of Dobson. However, she also stated that the stipend could very well be a topic of conversation at the county board’s upcoming budget workshop on June 11.

Taylor said that, while the county may not pay property taxes to Dobson, the town does reap many benefits from being the county seat. For instance, Taylor points to county workers and visitors to facilities such as the courthouse supporting local businesses.

Smith said that though the town does get an influx of outsiders spending money within the town limits, Dobson doesn’t see the vast majority of sales tax revenues that are raised in the town. Smith said that while sales tax is collected on a “point of sale” basis, the county disperses the funds based on population.

That means many of the dollars that are raised in Dobson find their way to other communities with larger populations. Smith said that he values the good relationship the town has with county government, but the $25,000 stipend is equivalent to two cents on Dobson’s tax rate.

Smith said that for a budget as small as Dobson’s, the $25,000 stipend from the county was a revenue the town had counted on and would like to see reinstated.