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Sales tax bill aims to wash away funding deficit

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Area beaches attract millions of dollars in tourism to North Carolina every year, but federal funding for beach nourishment has been slowly eroding just like many of our beaches. Now one local lawmaker has an idea to try to stem the tide financially.

“The beach is very important on many levels for the town and for the state,” said Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens. “Yes, funding is from the federal perspective and sometimes from the state perspective is not there when you need to do a project.”

Representative Susi Hamilton, a Wilmington Democrat, said she recently introduced a bill that would help beach communities in their times of need.

House Bill 962 would give municipalities the option of a half-cent sales tax increase to use for beach nourishment.

“The good news about sales tax, particularly since it doesn’t include food, is that it doesn’t hit the citizens that hard,” said Bruce Shell, Carolina Beach Interim Town Manager. “If we tried to fund it by property taxes, it would hit their wallets pretty strongly. This way it allows visitors to come here and enjoy the beaches and spend money on sales tax, so that they’re a contributor to the very issue that attracts the people.”

The proposed half cent sales tax increase could add money back to the coffers for beach nourishment and local leaders say that opportunity is too good to let simply slip through our fingers.

“For every dollar spent on beach re-nourishment, $320 comes back in the form of commerce,” said Shell. “This creates jobs, sales tax, room occupancy tax, business for hotels, motels and restaurants, so it’s all a part of our economic ecosystem.”

If House Bill 942 passes it would then be up to the voters of each municipality if they want the sales tax levied in their town.

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