The General Assembly has authorized many counties to levy local taxes to raise revenue but not cities. A bill (SB312) passed by the Senate Finance Committee today would allow Roanoke Rapids to impose a one percent sales and use tax. Voters would have to approve the tax in a referendum. It would be used to pay a $22 million bond held by Bank of America that financed the infamous Randy Parton Theater in that city. The theater was surrounded by scandals and poor attendance. Roanoke Rapids took over the theater last year but it was left with owing payments on the bond. Mayor Emery Doughtie said when the city took over the theater he was confident the city would not need a tax increase.
The bill’s sponsor Senator Ed Jones (D-Halifax) said the tax would bring in about $1.7 million annually and it would take about 17 years to pay off the bond. He said the tax was supposed to go away after that. “Without this sales tax the city would have to raise property taxes by 16 cents,” said Jones.
Senator Andrew Brock (R-Davie) said “there was one bad decision after another” dealing with the theater. He was concerned this would open the door for other municipalities to try to impose more taxes on citizens.
An official with the Department of Revenue said there could a technical problem with the bill. Eric Wayne said the department can only use five digit zip codes so it couldn’t narrow the collection down to just Roanoke Rapids. Wayne said people outside the city may wind up paying the tax.