First, let me start with the proposed county fees for Health Department inspections of restaurants and hotels/motels. State law requires sanitation inspections. County departments of health supply that service. It is an unfunded mandate by the state with the burden placed on local counties. Johnston County Health Department claims that the service costs about $375K per year. They want to recover that cost, since the state pays almost nothing towards these costs. It is my understanding that all restaurants already pay a fee to the state for such services. If the state does not turn that money over to the county department that actually performs that service, that is a business owner's problem HOW???
Well, that is why we pay taxes. Our tax dollars pay the state to administrate the issue. Unfortunately, we also pay county taxes for these same services. The county picks up the tab and we county tax payers fork out for that. I don't care if half of the other counties in the state do charge a second fee for these services. That does not make it right.
I see two things here. First is that even if the county did charge inspection fees and recover the costs of inspection services, I doubt highly that the county will lower the tax burden by that same $375,000 to all of us who pay that money. They will just add it to their budget and continue to spend.
The second effect will be that the increased fees will be passed along to us who eat at these restaurants. We will foot the bill for the cost of inspection fees by way of higher food prices. We will also continue to pay the same $375,000 in taxes. We already pay for the state inspection fees (for inspections they do not perform) in our food prices. We already pay for these inspections twice. Why pay a third or fourth time?
The insanity of the fees was hard to swallow. The County Commissioners rejected the fee proposal. For that, they have my kudos and my thanks.
Here is the news item in today's WMPM news page:
County Rejects Restaurant And Lodging Inspection Fees - County commissioners have rejected a proposal from Health Department Director Dr. Marilyn Pearson to begin charging fees for food and lodging inspections. The resolution, from the Johnston County Health Department, said inspections of restaurants and motels costs county taxpayers $375,000 annually to meet state requirements. However, the state provides less than $13,000 per year in support of the inspections. Dr. Pearson told commissioners that 50 boards of health and two dozen county boards of commissioners have adopted the resolution, which if it becomes state law, would give counties the right to cover the costs of inspecting establishments. Linwood Parker, the owner of White Swan and the Mayor of Four Oaks, said the resolution was government imagining a new way to tax small business. Parker said restaurants already pay the state to have the inspections, but it wasn’t restaurant owners fault the state kept all the money. Commissioner Wade Stewart said, "It sounds like our local health board has signed on to try and hit our local businesses." Commissioners Ray Woodall and Allen Mims tried to get the resolution approved, by it was voted down by fellow commissioners.
The next bit of insanity is the county tax administrator's proposal to publish the delinquency notices in just one newspaper. Look, if it is a requirement to do so, then it should be published in ALL newspapers in the county. Not everyone reads "The Smithfield Herald". I don't subscribe to their paper. I only read their web site. I subscribe to "The Selma News". If it is required that the notice be made public, then I will not get the notice.
I really don't care about reading who owes taxes and who does not. However, if it is a public requirement, then it should be made a public publication everywhere. It is only fair that all areas of the county be covered, not just the territory or subscriber base of one particular paper. It is also not fair to exclude all other publications in favor of one. That is just unethical. I don't care if The Herals has the higest subscriber base. What about those people in Clayton, Kenly, Wilson's Mills, Benson, Princeton, and Selma?
If it is required to publish the list and the county wants to exclude newspapers, then ads should be placed in all newspapers and on radio and local TV stating that a list will be available in all county offices, libraries, and on the county web site. THAT would be the fair way of handling the issue.
I don't believe the quote in the story, "The financial savings are less than the time value involved in preparing and taking notices to the different publications". That is just an excuse for either a lazy staff or the issue really is about the cost. If it is really about time, then have the publication made ONE time by ONE printer and have copies delivered to each publication for inclusion as a supplement or insert. That would take away that excuse real quick.
In terms of fairness to each publication, yes, it would indeed be favoritism of one newspaper over another. I don't see The Herald as needing favoritism. They are part of a huge corporation, the McLatchy Company. That is the same company that owns "The News & Observer" in Raleigh, amongst a group of about 80 newspapers. If you are going to favor publications, favor the small town newspaper that struggles to meet deadlines, payroll, and budgets yet serves the public with a less corporate flavor.
Here is the story from WMPM's news page.
Request To Publish Delinquent Tax Notices In One Newspaper Could Be Seen As Favoritism - Johnston County Commissioners want more time to think about a request from Tax Administrator Pat Goddard to only publish delinquent tax lien notices in the Smithfield Herald and bypass paying for the ads in other local newspapers, like the Kenly News and Clayton News Star. Goddard said by only advertising delinquent tax notices in the Smithfield Herald, it would save time and money. “The financial savings are less than the time value involved in preparing and taking notices to the different publications,” she told commissioners. County Manager Rick Hester said such a move by county commissioners would most likely be seen as favoritism and should probably be reconsidered.