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Chatham growth, options and 1% land transfer tax

By Mike Cross
Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2007

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Chatham County, NC - I don’t think any of us need to be told that we are growing, but… the Triangle J-Council of Governments estimates the current population in eastern Chatham alone to be 34,000 and considering geographic location and expected growth, this population will increase to 117,000 by the year 2035!


The National Association of Planners has identified 10 Mega-Regions within the U.S. We are part of the Piedmont-Atlantic Mega-Region which is predicted to be #1 of 10 in growth. 70% of residential growth and 80% of economic growth is expected to occur in these Mega-Regions. They predict our population to increase by 150% by the year 2050. That pretty much matches the Triangle J Council of Government estimates.

Now, if these estimates were all Fairy Tales, we wouldn’t need anything!…but with approximately 15,000 homes currently approved and another estimated 8,000 in the pipeline, it’s pretty hard to not believe what these organizations are telling us. We are ill prepared to facilitate this kind of massive growth.

Our current Capital Improvements Plan will exhaust our $155M credit line in 5 years. We (BOC and Staff) have identified $500M in additional capital improvements we will have to address over the next 10 years. A list of these additional needs is available on the county website.

Hear ye, hear ye. I don’t like taxes any more than you do, I don’t know anyone who likes taxes and I’ve never seen a tax that is completely fair to everyone! I frankly liked Chatham, at least my neighborhood, much better the way she was 20 years ago! Unfortunately, taxes are a necessary part of the solution to address what’s coming and we must find a tax solution that will generate this revenue as fairly as possible.


1. Sales Tax. Chatham is a Rural-High Growth County – with minimal retail sales, 60% of our citizens are working/shopping outside of the county and many others are shopping outside because they are closer to other county retail centers. A 1 Cent Sales Tax increase simply will not do it in Chatham. This is not even close to being a workable solution.

2. Property Tax. If we were to borrow $500 Million today, debt service would be approximately $50 Million per year. Based on current property tax value of $625,000 per 1 cent, we would have to raise our property tax by 79 cents. Our current rate is 59.9 cents. Our new tax rate would be $1 dollar and 38.9 cents! This is workable Only as a revenue solution and is obviously not acceptable!

3. School Impact Tax. SIT is currently set by the BOC at $2,900 with a cap of $3,500. This ceiling was determined by a professional study in 1999. If this study were updated, I would estimate a qualified cap of $8-$10K per new home and by NC statute would have to be, as it is now, applied as a fixed tax regardless of square footage or sales price. SIT can only be used for school construction and debt incurred for the same; what do we do about our other capital improvement requirements? This up-front cost puts most of the burden on the Developer-Builder Industry and severely limits the ability of our middle and lower income home buyer. This is workable ONLY as a revenue solution and is hardly a fair distribution.

4. Adequate Public Facilities Tax. Our APFO Committee is looking at this option and I would also estimate this at $8-10K per new home. Again, this up-front cost would put most of the burden on the Developer-Builder Industry with the same negative effects on our middle and lower income home buyers. This is workable ONLY as a revenue solution and is hardly a fair distribution

5. Moratorium. Our BOC is currently reviewing/discussing a draft proposal prepared by our Moratorium Committee. A moratorium is generally a short term delay (approximately 1 year, without further justification), it must be legally justified, have a plan with a deadline to correct the cause for delay and if revenue is involved, must show the revenue source. A moratorium seems to have BOC consensus, if we can work out a proper justification…we may have to put it in place while we amend our ordinances This is not a solution at all, but could slow things down for a while.

6. 1% Land Transfer Tax. Review of Deed Transfers in Chatham over the past 7 months, indicates 71% were executed by current citizens on property and existing homes. This review applied to Moore County indicates the same, at 70%. 1% LTT clearly does NOT put the bulk of the burden on the Developer-Builder Industry and MOST property owners will share this expense – eventually! The up-front cost/tax would be paid at the time of sale, with the property sale generating the revenue with which to pay the tax. 1% Land Transfer Tax is a solution and has the most equitable distribution!

Growth is coming and unfortunately, taxes are coming with it! 1% Land Transfer Tax certainly appears to be our only responsible option.

If you have a better solution, I would be delighted to hear it!

Related info:
Mike Cross' Weblog
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Chatham growth, options and 1% land transfer tax
Chatham County Commissioner Mike Cross shares his viewpoints with citizens on his weblog.

Related info:
Mike Cross' Weblog