Transfer Tax robocall

I just got a robocall from a group calling itself "Citizens for a better Orange County" that opposes the Transfer Tax. It calls the tax the "Home Tax," which is clearly wrong on two levels. Firstly, the proposed tax is on all land sales, and secondly it is an attempt to falsely personalize this tax for local homeowners. Oh, and it fails to mention an important detail: the tax rate would be 0.4%. That's right: four tenths of a percent. That's one thousand dollars on a $250k hypothetical home. Sounds like too much money? Well, what are the alternatives? If this is defeated, the only two alternatives that have been seriously discussed are a sales tax (the most regressive tax possible) and a property tax increase. A property tax increase would be a home tax. Everything about the robocall was misleading and dishonest.

The call directs people to a website that I won't link to here. The website refers to "Tom Holt" as their treasurer and "Mark Zimmerman" as their spokesperson. A bit of googling gives:

Mark Zimmerman (919) 942-9150

so that might be one way to get more info about this if anyone is interested. The website also lists a toll-free number: 866-275-1129. Also, a visit to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine shows us that Mr. Zimmerman was chair of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Chamber of Commerce in 2005, and is... drumroll... a realtor with Remax.

So, to recap: a realtor is the spokesperson for a shady group that is using shady tactics (including robocalls and dishonest "home tax" verbiage) to try to shoot down the Transfer Tax. A good question for Mr. Zimmerman might be, "How much money have you personally spent on trying to defeat the Transfer Tax?" Or maybe, "Why do you feel it's necessary to resort to dishonest tactics to defeat a tax that might have a small impact on your business?"



Y'all will remember these are same nice folks who brought you push polling in February:

I think this is itself a great reason to support the transfer tax - as if you needed one. ;-)

We need to raise taxes because there is no discernible economic development in Chapel Hill.  If we had a more progressive City Council, we may be able to attract businesses to Chapel Hill which would diversify our tax base.  Given no economic development, the only choice is to tax rooftops.  That's why I categorically joined the vast majority opposing this tax, that simply excuses 10 years of economic mismanagement by our city council.  Wake up!!!

Businesses are clamoring to get into Chapel Hill, even in spite of these supposedly-onerous restrictions people like to complain about. Businesses are already very attracted to Chapel Hill because of the large somewhat affluent, and partially-captive audience. And why do you think all those potential customers are here?

It's because of the Town's work to make sure that development is done in a way that serves the long-term interests of the community (and not just the short-term interests of businesses), that so many people want to live, work, study and therefore spend money here. The Council is doing a good job of keeping it that way.

Both sides on this issue are playing pretty loose when it comes to actual facts on this proposed tax. To date, I've not seen any site that actually even claims to look at the matter objectively. It's really frustrating for those of us that are genuinely trying to evaluate the issue on merits rather than hype. I question whether the revenues from a transfer tax are a reliable funding mechanism, particularly in a time when property sales are down. I also question whether the revenues generated are going to be enough to adequately address the needs.

I really wish somebody would answer those basic questions without trying to tell me what I already know in terms of realtors being sleazy and push polls being sleazy or trying to tell me that to oppose this tax is to oppose schools, parks, puppies and all good things. To date, I give both the pro and con sites on this issue an "F". Like a lot of people, I haven't made up my mind on this, and would honestly like to hear reasoned discussion on the merits alone.

Basic question -- Is this the best tool for the job? Why? Why not?

As it stands, I think when this goes to the polls, it'll go down in the flames of the rhetoric and hype surrounding it, precisely because nobody is making the sound principled arguments on either side, and in a knowledge vacuum, tax increase proposals of any type are likely to fail.

I invite those on either side of this issue to attempt to make your case without merely attacking the opposition. Forget shooting the messengers. Educate the public.

See the following site from Orange County. 


It's registered to
	Hakooz, Joe 
204 Tobacco Farm Dr
Apex, NC 27502

And I couldn't find any reference to it on the Orange County website, although there was this DTH article.

Then I'll take this a further proof that the Commissioners have not been very strategic in their advocacy of this tax. (See Mark's comment below about timing.)

I'm still gonna vote for it.

Is it legal for commissioners to engage in advocacy?

Standard Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  The County Commission, as a legislative body, can't engage in advocacy.  Commissioners themselves are citizens just like anyone else and can engage in whatever sort of advocacy they want in their private lives, so long as they aren' t implying that their opinion is the opinion of the county.  It is probably safe to assume that since the commissioners put this on the ballot that they support it as individuals.

Interestingly, other elected bodies can endorse the referendum, as the CH/C School Board has done, and I believe Chapel Hill and Carrboro are both considering, but they can't use public funds to support it.


The County Revenue Options Education Advisory Committee is working with a consultant to produce this site.

This is probably the point where I should say that while I'm on the county education committee, and also obviously working very hard to get this referendum passed, that I and the rest of the county committee are in no way doing any advocacy for this in an official capacity. The county attorney and staff have been very helpful in making sure that the work of our committee remains impartial and educational in nature. When I'm advocating, I'm representing my own opinions and not those of the county.

I didn't know about the exemptions, for example.

Thanks for your work and for the work of the committee, Jason.

decision by default is still decision

Does anybody know where the figure below comes from and specifically what data was used to generate it? (ie. how old or new was the market data?)

Based on information received from the NC Association of County Commissioners, Orange County can expect $4,013,532 from the land transfer tax – the equivalent of about 3.2 cents in current ad valorem property tax.

Don't know how accurate this thing is, since I've got no idea what it's based on, but this gizmo is kinda cool for comparing various projections.

  • 0.4% transfer tax
  • all land sales
  • alternatives discussed are .25% sales tax or property tax increase
What more do you need?

Great, you've been a member here for under an hour and a half and you've already attacked a stranger for asking some questions. Feel better?

How much is needed to fund the parks and schools? Why? What's it for? Will the transfer tax fully fund this need? Can that be guaranteed? Are there better, more reliable tools for the job? Why? Why not?

Does this tax subsidize the needs generated by non property owners on the backs of property owners who need to sell for whatever reason, including the increased cost of simply living in OC due to the rising costs generated by those transient non-property owners?

If this tax fails, what happens? Better or worse?

You are an anonymous user of this website, whereas Cristobal is a REAL person with a real profile (and who I actually know in person). Stick to the facts, please.

No, I didn't attack you. I attacked your position. You've taken the false positions that there are only two sides, and that people don't have enough information. This tax has been discussed for months. If you have a viable alternative, why don't you suggest it? More to the point, why didn't you suggest it to the county commissioners months ago? Instead your bogus argument is muddying the waters.

I had the decency to (1) use my real name, and (2) report facts. Try keeping pace.

Property taxes will go up, no matter what, because the cost of maintaining infrastructure and providing services will go up. Has something to do with things like: useful life structures of buildings, inflation, rising health care costs for employees, etc.

The transfer tax will not prevent property taxes from going up but it will slow the rate of increases by essentially deferring some of the tax increases until property is sold.

Who cares? Well, if you have a social conscience you will realize that lower income families will be affected most greatly by increases in property taxes. By slowing the increases you give them a little more breathing room.

We will have to pay now - or pay later. But by paying later we may help some of our neighbors who are less able to pay now. Do the right thing - vote for the tax.

The commissioners may have rushed this issue to ballot. I think they needed way more time to make this issue understandable. It will get beaten by the simplistic aggressiveness of the realtors and home builders.

Is here (link to a blog of mine). Interesting that the call refers to it as a "new tax" since other comments here indicate that we already have a 0.5% transfer tax, and what's on the ballot would be an increase of 0.4%, bringing the total transfer tax to 0.9%.

Which is it?

decision by default is still decision

I have been drawing the conclusion that--given the amount of money that is being spent to convince me to vote "no"--the only appropriate thing to do is to vote "yes".

When I pick up the phone, the moment I discern it is a robocall I hang up... I do not care who's voice or the subject matter. If God ever comes in a robocall, I guess I will burn.

The dinosaur.

Well, this discussion doesn't seem to be going anywhere and, probably, neither is my comment.

I'm voting against the transfer tax.

a. if the buyers of land/house were paying I would feel better, but i'd still be opposed.

b. sellers already pay a tax, $2 per thousand of sale price, at deed recording; they pay a sales commission if realtor involved.

c. there are countless tricks that could be played to avoid this tax.

d. i don't think the revenue would just be for schools.

e. the schools don't know what to do with money, anyways; all they want each budget year is the sky, moon and the stars.

f. i'm willing to pay for real needs (schools, county facilities) by property taxes (I have no plans to sell my home....yet), if the recipients give real and significant reasons.

g. the real path to justice is the income and property tax; you have more you pay more, with the income tax being the most politically difficult to increase.

h. the land transfer tax is a lazy proposal with an insigificant benefit but a frustrating blow to a home seller who already feels the whole universe of fees have fallen on their shoulder.

Hope this hasn't dissed anyone......

Let me try to address some of these concerns. This tax isn't perfect, I agree, but the state legislature isn't giving us anything better to work with, and we need the money now, not later.

a. if the buyers of land/house were paying I would feel better, but i'd still be opposed.

While the seller is legally responsible, the actual payment of the tax in practice can be negotiated between the buyer and seller as a part of the agreement.

b. sellers already pay a tax, $2 per thousand of sale price, at deed recording; they pay a sales commission if realtor involved.


c. there are countless tricks that could be played to avoid this tax.

Unfortunately, the only three substantial options available for increasing revenue are a sales tax, which is regressive; an increase in property tax, which hurts farmers, will be passed on directly to renters, and makes it even more difficult to live here; or the Transfer Tax. I don't believe there is any scenario under which we can continue to provide adequate services and funds for necessary, legally required capital projects in this county like new schools without additional funds.

d. i don't think the revenue would just be for schools.

The commissioners have publicly committed and passed a resolution solidifying their commitment to using the funds for schools and parks only. They have to pay for schools either way, and the parks funding is necessary for our growing population and open space preservation.

e. the schools don't know what to do with money, anyways; all they want each budget year is the sky, moon and the stars.

I'm not going to speak to the operating expenditures, which we're all welcome to disagree about, but the capital funds are necessary. Orange County has a need to build new schools in both districts and expand existing schools just to meet the demands imposed by new residential development. These aren't possible future needs, these are needs we already have. Regardless of how one might feel about the school boards' use of their funds every year, this money is needed for kids to have classroom ceilings over their heads.

f. i'm willing to pay for real needs (schools, county facilities) by property taxes (I have no plans to sell my home....yet), if the recipients give real and significant reasons.

Me too, but that's an economic hardship for a lot of people.

g. the real path to justice is the income and property tax; you have more you pay more, with the income tax being the most politically difficult to increase.

I totally agree about the income tax. In order for me to feel the same way about the property tax, I think it should be graduated progressively like the income tax. But we don't have the time to generate the political will for that. Orange County needs funds sooner than later. Every expense we don't pay for now will cost many times more in the future as property and building expenses continue to skyrocket, and building will have to be expedited to meet needs.

h. the land transfer tax is a lazy proposal with an insigificant benefit but a frustrating blow to a home seller who already feels the whole universe of fees have fallen on their shoulder.

It's not the best tax. It's the best tax we are legally allowed to collect. I yearn for the day in the future where municipalities are adequately funded by state and federal income taxes, but the trend for the past decade at least has been that things have been getting worse for local governments, not better.

I hope I addressed some of your concerns without sounding too aggressive. There are a lot of legitimate concerns to be raised any time a new tax appears, and there are certainly cons to any method of raising money. I just feel very strongly that in this case, where the money will be raised either way, that the transfer tax is the least regressive way to do it.


Like Roscoe, I have decided to vote against this tax. While I agree that it is the best tax available, I think it is seriously flawed and voting for the best of the worse is simply not something I can bring myself to do. If this community cannot sustain itself on an already substantial budget, then perhaps we should think long and hard about the root cause of the problem and how to deal with that, rather than settling for a solution that is fraught with the potential for unintended consequences.

I disagree with a couple of your conclusions.

a. While the seller is legally responsible, the actual payment of the tax in practice can be negotiated between the buyer and seller as a part of the agreement.

And yet, for someone who is retiring or being transferred, who has an older home in need of repair, or any number of other circumstances, the power often lies with the buyer, especially for homes less than $250,000 in Orange County. In those instances, there is no motivation for the buyer to negotiate additional fees.

b. Unfortunately, the only three substantial options available for increasing revenue are a sales tax, which is regressive; an increase in property tax, which hurts farmers, will be passed on directly to renters, and makes it even more difficult to live here; or the Transfer Tax. I don't believe there is any scenario under which we can continue to provide adequate services and funds for necessary, legally required capital projects in this county like new schools without additional funds.

The operative term here is "adequate services". Chapel Hill Carrboro Schools are overfunded IMHO. They continue to add new programs with no serious evaluation of the efficacy of existing programs--more, more and more. And the results continue to benefit those kids who would do well regardless of what happened because they have so many resources available outside of school. Regardless of how big our tax base is, we will always be able to put more money toward education. We can always spend more funds to build bigger and better schools. But I believe we need to step back and seriously reassess the school funding in this district before we contribute further to the gentrification of the community with yet another tax that will lie the heaviest on those least able to afford it.

Again, I'm not going to spend much time on the schools' annual budget issue because it's only going to drive the conversation off-topic, and I'm well aware that there are plenty of folks on both sides of that issue who are both far better educated and far more opinionated about it than I am. I'm concerned about their capital needs, which cannot be ignored regardless of their program requests. Given the political reality of the Chapel Hill Carrboro District, if the budget only allowed enough money for continuation of the programs currently in place, or to add innovative green building features which would save money over the long term, for example, I don't know if the political will exists to go with the long term savings. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't.  But it's a moot point either way, because voting against the transfer tax doesn't do a damn thing to stop taxes from being raised. It just stops them from being raised in a way that would relieve a significant burden from a number of the people in our community most in need of fiscal assistance.

I understand your point about the operating vs capital budget Jason, but the entire premise of the transfer tax--to support school and park construction--is based on an assumption that we will continue to need *more* schools to accommodate growth (versus expanding existing schools which would be the case if we were really pursuing increased density). More schools, or expanded schools, mean higher operating budgets.

To me, voting for this tax accomplishes two things: 1) it reduces the politcal imperative to increase economic development beyond residential growth, and 2) it postpones, but does not eliminate the need for future, increases in property taxes. And that will place a double burden on the working and middle class sector of this community.

This is what happens when we complain about the horrors of "big box stores" and chains. It happened with Wal-Mart, and guess what? It's just across the county line in Durham. Looks like (if Wal-Mart is still interested) that the exact same scenario will play out with the Chatham line, too. Just think of the property taxes or even a half cent sales tax on everything sold in New Hope Commons, which is right on our doorstep anyway. Whose fault is that? People who get self-righteous and hold up signs. Typical townies -- always screwing the rural residents so that we have to pay part of the costs for their mistakes.

 Stop looking down your noses at commerical development. THAT is the alternative to the transfer tax. Unfortunately, that's hard to fix overnight.

This is useful, Roscoe, although your point (e) isn't valid. The proposed transfer tax will add a layer of beaurocracy and potentially ineffective administration. That worries me. I also worry about the affected home-sellers who aren't moving up but more likely selling for other reasons. That measly quarter of one percent could feel like a bite.
whatever other pluses and minues there are about the transfer tax, it does not create any additional bureaucracy or administration.  It is collected by the Register of Deeds at the same time and under the same criteria and with the same tax base as the current State land transfer tax -- the rate will simply be higher in the counties that levy the tax.
A "transfer-tax" is nothing more than a "sales tax" on a very large, very specific item. What needs to be addressed is "impact fees". It is not one four member family moving out of a house and a new four member family moving in that creates all the need for " schools and parks". It is the never ending permitting of dense sprawl that passes for smart growth around here. If one added an impact fee of $2500-ish per bedroom instead of flat impact fee of $1500 per residence, you could generate some real income for " schools and parks" at te expense of those who are demanding them.
Having weighed the arguments expressed last night, I've decided not to change my mind. The Land Transfer Tax gets my vote. Thanks to all who shared their thinking so generously.

.........for the same reasons they stated above. Why can't OC learn to live within their means? I might go along if there was a corresponding reduction in other taxes, but I do not se ethe need to feed the government.

How exactly does this tax not affect the very same lower income/fixed income homeowners that are hardest hit by the increases in property tax?  I'm not getting that part.

 Are we ignoring them, or assuming that they will never sell their homes?  Because, many of them seem to sell their homes because they can't pay the increases in property tax.   I'm failing to see exactly how this addresses that issue.  It seems to me that it only piles yet another tax onto their heads (as it does with everyone else). 

I have no data on whether cheaper homes turn over more or less often than those which are more expensive.  I've heard arguments that part of the reason it would be better for low income folks is that a larger percentage of this tax would be paid by developers buying property, building, and then reselling than would be the case if the same amount of funds were raised through a property tax.  It may be true, but there are more persuasive reasons.  One, one of the segments of the Orange County population we know are hurting from property tax rates right now are rural farmers.  An increase in the property taxes would hurt them, whereas a transfer tax might even dissuade a little bit of the temptation to sell their property off for residential development, which will only increase the overall tax burden to all of us.  Farms also tend to get passed down from one generation to the next, and inheritance is not affected by this tax.  Two, rental units house a good portion of the low income community here.  Property tax increases are usually passed on directly through rent (I'm quite sure my landlady took into account her tax bill when she decided how much to charge me), but a transfer tax would only be passed on if the units are sold, which happens far less often.

 Third, if a tax is to be imposed on low income families, does it not make the most sense to do so at the time of home sale when they actually have the money to pay the tax?  Often, the biggest problem for people struggling to get by isn't just a lack of money in general but a lack of regular cash flow.  While a sales tax has been shown to be the most regressive option, a property tax is a once a year bite, and not everyone has the budgeting skills to plan for it properly, or to save/pay in chunks.  The property tax bill doesn't magically show up at the moment in a person's life when they have just gained money from selling a home (almost all homes in Orange County have appreciated significantly since time of purchase).  While some people have the good fortune of being able to deal with it by dipping into a savings account, statistics show the poorest among us often have to pay on high-interest credit cards or other through other predatory means of lending.

I'm sure there are plenty of cases in which these generalizations don't apply, and I'm not claiming there aren't circumstances where a transfer tax would hurt more than a property tax - but on the aggregate, the transfer tax seems to have the smallest impact on those of few means of the three available options.  It's not a perfect argument, but it's not the only argument in the tax's favor.

I want to remind everyone that voting for or against the transfer tax has almost no effect on the overall amount that Orange County will be taxed.  We're going to pay for the unavoidable expenses of schools and other capital investments either way.  Voting against the transfer tax isn't a vote against paying more taxes - voting against it is in essence voting FOR paying higher property taxes.

Thanks Jason.  I see the point with the farmers, and see how it would help those who are trying to hold on to their farms.  So that is one positive for this tax.  As for renters, sorry, I know it's your time in life to be a renter, but I am not thinking about property tax in terms of the renters, but in terms of the property owners.  Sure- it will get passed on no matter what, but I'm more interested in the people who don't have the luxury of passing their property taxes on to others.  It's funny how where you are in life can have such an effect on how you view the world, isn't it? 

As for your third point- not much of a point.  When one sells a home, one needs that money for moving, for a down payment, for another month at the nursing home, etc.  It might look like a huge landfall to those who want a piece of it, but it isn't.  Especially these days, what with mortgage issues, and increased time it takes to sell a house- people just aren't raking it in like they were a few years ago.  Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but these days, (even in Chapel Hill) it's possible to sell a house at a loss. 

I guess it really is where you live.  I don't live near lots of renters, I live near people who have seen their taxes jump way up with the annexation.  I've seen the turnover that caused (at many price levels, not just among the low income, although they sure were hit hard).  I have no doubt that there were many people who were just holding on to their houses before, and that was enough to throw them over the edge.  It seems to me that we are again discounting the working class homeowners and at the same time pretending that we are helping them.

 Maybe it would be more honest to simply admit that we can't help them, instead of setting up a tax with the pretense that it helps, when truth is anyone who owns a home, no matter how much or little it may be worth will be paying this tax.   Sad to say- maybe we really can't come up with a tax that doesn't affect those on limited incomes.  I know lots of ideas have been floated around, and that none are ideal.  But- pretending that this one doesn't affect working class homeowners and only will get developers is bunk.  Anyone who sells a home and needs the profit from that home to move is going to be hurt.  And, to state the obvious- it's the lower income homeowner who will be hardest hit by the loss of that profit.

Sorry- I haven't yet been convinced that this tax is a better solution than any other ones proposed.  Yes - I realize that we will have to pay more in taxes all the time, and that money will come from somewhere, most likely property tax increases.  I haven't said a lot about our "choices" because I don't think any of the proposed solutions are any better than any other.  And- nothing here has convinced me otherwise.  It will still hit landowners on limited incomes harder than others. 

My biggest issue with this method is that it is a tax on those leaving the community, rather than those remaining in the community.   At least the other suggestions will tax the people who will be using the services, rather than those moving. (and yes- I realize that plenty of people move within the community- obviously it is perfectly fair to expect them to continue paying into the system)  But the transfer tax seems to be a way for people to get what they want and make other people pay for it.  And, that offends me.  If you (and all the rest of us want great schools) step on up to the plate and pay for them.  We need to stand up and admit that what we want is worth paying for, and stop whining about paying the bill when it comes.  If we want a community with great schools and funky stores, no problem.  Deal with the fact that it requires higher taxes, and pay them.  Or else accept that maybe less taxes and a big box really are the answer.  Either way- saddling those leaving the community with the desires of those who remain here is unfair.

  Actually, given that nothing here has shown me it is a fairer or less regressive method of taxation, all this typing out of my thoughts is making it clear I'm going to have to take that last consideration and decide I am against it. 

So- I thanks for the thread- it did help me decide.  Finally.

I just typed a good long response before I realized I wasn't logged in, and then the Internet ate it when I tried to log in and go back to my comments...

As for the fact that I rent, it doesn't have much of anything to do with my vote.  I may be renting, but I'd like to buy a home in Chapel Hill as soon as I have the means to do so, and I'm perfectly willing to pay any portion of the land transfer tax that gets passed on to me at that point.  But I'm not so terribly sure that retyping the rest of my comments is helpful.  I want to clear up people's misperceptions, but I think it is already clear enough where I stand on the issue that I may not be the person to make more arguments in favor of the tax on this thread.  While I disagree with your assessment, I am much happier when I hear someone disagree with the tax who is well informed and has fully assessed the issue.  I'm afraid so many of the voters in Orange County are going to go into the voting booth without knowing the issue well enough to make a smart decision, one way or the other.

I wish we had better options to help low income people with the tax burden that a high quality of life necessitates, but right now, we don't.  Whether the tax passes or not, there is still much to be done to correct our broken tax system.

It's not a matter of how much it is, it is a matter of principle. I believe that any increase in our already high tax structure is just another attempt by the local board to suck money out of the hands of people who can invest it wisely.

Hi everybody,

I chair a local grassroots group, Orange Citizens for Schools and Parks, that

is funded only by local contribution and is made up of only Orange County

citizens, and that advocates for the tax. Our website is

Check it out.


We are opposed by the NC Association of Realtors who are spending a

small fortune of state-wide money to fight this tax, with the fear that

if it passes in Orange, it might pass in the high-growth counties like

Wake. The NCAR, with their local group, Citizens for a Better Orange

County, gotta love that name, are running the most negative ads on

CNN and CNN Headline News. These ads are embarrassing to me, even

if I were on their side.


Their spokesman is Mark Zimmerman, who presents himself as a

concerned citizen with everyone's best interest at heart, without

disclaiming his financial self-interest in the failure of the tax. Mark is

the owner of the local RE/MAX francise and the Vice President of the

Chapel Hill Board of Realtors. He does not live in Orange County as does

not send his kids to school here.


His technical arguments are ridiculous. He uses Dare County as a model

for Orange, saying that Dare County, which has a transfer tax, also has

high property taxes. I answer with: Surprise surprise, Dare has high

property taxes; Dare County is the outer banks and beachfront property

is very expensive, and the county services out there have to be heroic

in that difficult environment. Interestingly enough the only portion

of Dare County that is on the mainline is the Alligator River Wildlife

Preserve which I believe has zero (human) inhabitants.


Anytime anyone says that they are against the transfer tax, just ask them

"How do you want to pay for the next needed school?"




With a commercial tax base.

... that's not a solution that can start generating funds this year, which is when we need them.

"How do you want to pay for the next needed school?" is similar to the question about building our library.  When the bond was narrowly defeated as a result of the Tax Watch group and their "progressive" leaders, the plans for the new building had to be scaled back.  Look at what we are now paying to build an addition that would have cost so much less if we did it back in the early '90s.

So if the LTT is defeated, one can make the argument that we will all end up paying more down the road.  Does that mean that this is a good reason to just go ahead and approve the tax?  No, but I think it points out the "no-win" situation that we have had forced on us.

As usual Joe, you can't discredit the message, so you have to personally attack the messenger....

All I see in Joe's comments are factual statements about Zimmerman (he doesn't live Orange County, his kids don't go to our schools, he owns a RE/MAX) and rebuttals of his claims.  You may disagree with his conclusions, but they seem fair to me.

More importantly, Joe's criticisms come from a real, authenticated person who lives in and cares about Orange County. That gives them a lot more credibility. For all we know you could be Zimmerman, or some other real estate type from across the state.

Where is a commercial tax base success story that we could emulate? I've heard this "solution" bandied about for decades and two things I can say for sure are that we are still basically doing okay here financially & I've not heard of a commercial tax base utopia yet.

To follow up on Mark's question, with all of the commercial development that has and is occurring in our neighboring Durham and Wake Counties, what advantages has that commercial development provided them that we don't have? Are their services better than ours? Are their schools better than ours? Are their crime rates lower than ours? I'm certainly not opposed to expanding our tax base with well-thought-out commercial development, but when it's not well-thought-out the consequences, both near- and long-term, can be disastrous and far outweigh any potential benefits.

Mark and George, you make some excellent points. There is danger in relying too heavily on any one tax base. Many neighboring counties have relied heavily on commercial tax bases, only to find that they're not really any better off. In fact, some are decidedly worse off after the ravages of NAFTA left them with little commercial tax base and not much to lure more residential development for an increased role from residential property taxes.

It seems to me that just like an individual is advised to limit their exposure to any one market segment, a county would be wise to balance it's tax base with a combination of residential, commerical and sales taxes to fully offset the growing demand for services. Relying too heavily on any one sector might just set up the county for more problems down the road. It would seem that a careful balance of sales taxes and property taxes might weather more forms of economic times than excessive reliance on property and transfer taxes. (And, as has been pointed out, those transfer taxes are really just a very limited form of sales tax that only affects a limited subset of those already paying property tax.)

It's purely academic at this point, but it sure would've been nice if the debate over which form of taxation was preferable both from the county's perspective, and from the citizenry's perspective had not been stifled in essence before it even got going. And, speaking of sheer fantasy, it would be nice to see a very broadly constructed budget forcast for the next 5, 10, 20 years that attempted to take into account variables in the economic outlook for the whole region in an effort to really determine how much will be needed and how best it might realistically be funded long term.

Personally, I may very well wind up voting for the transfer tax, but I again question whether it's merely a bandaid on a hemorrage. The question shouldn't be whether anybody is for or against the transfer tax, but rather whether it's even an adequate tool. But, to determine that, we'd have to have a lot more information about actual longterm plans, (assuming there even are any.)

"The question shouldn't be whether anybody is for or against the transfer tax, but rather whether it's even an adequate tool."

At the forum sponsored by the Orange County Democrats, even those who support this tax admitted that it is seriously flawed.

Jason--I'm not sure your claim that inheritance is not affected by this tax is accurate. I specifically asked the representative from the School of Government about this after the forum and she said inherited property would be subject to the tax. What would not be affected is the granting of conservation easements.

Joe Capowski asks ""How do you want to pay for the next needed school?" If we don't have the money to pay for it, I want the school board to withhold certification through SAPFO. From what I have read, either the sales tax or the transfer tax would generate approximately $2 million annually. And yet the debt service on a new school is in excess of $30 million and we need at least 3 new schools and still have debt on existing schools. In other words, $2 million is a drop in the bucket to what is needed for construction, let alone the additional operating costs that will be accrued through that construction.

So Joe, let me ask you, What are the long-term unintended consequences of endorse a flawed mechanism that cannot come close to meeting the need it is designed to meet?

While I cannot bring myself to vote for this, I too dislike the interference of the Realtors Association in this discussion.


Terri, I think the Realtors Association have every right to be part of the discussion, just as Joe's group and any others who wants to organize and participate as our laws provide.

As Laurin Easthom writes, not all realtors are opposed to the tax.



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