Tryon mayor’s plea to support annexation comes too late

Published 2:01 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples issued a letter Tuesday urging Tryon residents to contact council-elect Doug Arbogast and ask him to support the town’s annexation (see Peoples’ statement below). However, Peoples’ request did not come in time to change Arbogast’s decision. He voted Tuesday night with council members Wim Woody and Austin Chapman to rescind the town’s annexation.Peoples’ request followed statements made last week by Arbogast that he switched his position&bsp;and now&bsp;opposes Tryons current involuntary annexation of parts of Gillette Woods, Country Club Road, Harmon Field Road and Hwy. 108. Arbogast, along with council-elect Wim Woody and councilman Austin Chapman, who have both expressed their opposition to involuntary annexation, ended&bsp;Tuesday the battle over Tryons annexation as well as its court battle as the town is currently in litigation over the annexation decision.Arbogast did not give an opinion on annexation during his campaign this year but after he was elected said he would not vote to rescind the annexation since he hadnt researched the subject. He called for input from town and annexation area residents and last week announced he would vote to rescind the annexation. Arbogast says he is convinced that Tryon can increase its revenues through retail and residential development. He says he sees Tryon as a village of art galleries, restaurants, and other businesses, where outlying residents will petition Tryon to join the club.Peoples addresses Arbogasts ideas to grow its revenue and says the reality is theres virtually nowhere to build within Tryons current city limits. Peoples also says with inflation growing at an average of three percent per year and Tryons growth rate has been at or below one percent, the town has lost $372,000 worth of buying power over the past six years. Peoples said Arbogast promised him when campaigning that hed vote to continue the annexation. Peoples urges Tryon residents to contact Arbogast and to support the annexation, not CAFA, and support the citizens of Tryon who elected him.
Mayor Peoples’ commentsEditor’s note: The following statement was issued Tuesday by Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples regarding councilman-elect Doug Arbogast’s recent announcement opposing Tryon’s annexation.Lets take a look at what Mr. Arbogast in tandem with CAFA (Citizens Against Forced Annexation) might set in motion if he follows through and votes against annexation even after he promised me he would vote for it. The history of his running is as follows. I worked hard to get his voluntary annexation through so that he could run and vote for annexation as he had promised me he would. With that done he now says in an e-mail that it is time to end this battle and pick it up at another time. This is after he said he would vote for it; then he said if all those other officials voted for it there must be merit; then he said we should let the trial run its course; then he said come fill out a form and tell me what your payment should be per month or year and do it by December 31, 2009; then he said that he would vote against it. He says that he sat down with the CAFA group for about two hours, and that he has spoken with the Town manager and the Town attorney. I do not remember any sit down talks with him about rescinding annexation since he got elected nor does the present board. The citizens of Tryon elected him; he was not elected by CAFA. He suggests that we pick it up at another time.If we pick it up at another time, we will just have to start the process and costs over again. The fact that people are reeling from economic disappointment and disillusionment has nothing to do with annexation: at this point the economy is in the dumps. He said that people who come to look at property in the annexed area are not buying because realtors have to disclose the possibility of annexation. The fact that people are not buying those houses has nothing to do with the proposed annexation in my opinion. Before the economy went flat, the annexation was already in the hopper and homes seemed to be selling well. We started the annexation back in late 2006 or early 2007, and the economy had not yet crashed; however, houses were still being sold.The idea of a franchise or utility tax will not fly. The state of North Carolina regulates and taxes nearly everything in this town. They regulate banks, financial institutions, phone companies, natural gas, electricity and even communications. A while back we looked at having a business tax, and when all the requirements of the state were met, we could only collect less than $10,000. The businesses complained, and we dropped it; besides if we added an additional tax it would fall on the citizens of this town in a pass along from the businesses. Each of the proffered ideas seemed to me to require that the citizens of this town pay more money in some way: no thank you!The idea of robust retail development and residential investment comes across as a great idea until one begins to sort out all the details. The residential investment might help us grow more than the approximately one percent that we are gaining each year if it were possible. The reality is that there is almost nowhere to build in the city limits of Tryon. We are pretty much locked into what we have here already. The aforementioned robust retail begs a look. Again we have a great idea, but the reality is quite different. Here is an example. The numbers are not exact; however, they are in the ballpark. In order for us to raise $3,000, which is about one third of a pennys worth of property tax we would have to raise retail sales county wide over $100,000,000-thats right one hundred million dollars. The state would collect $77,750. Sales tax is distributed per capita. The county would collect only a portion of the tax for its use. Lets say that the county gets back three cents worth of the tax on that money. That would be $30,000 and based on the fact that Tryon has 1800 residents and the county has 18,000 we would get 10 percent of the $30,000 or $3,000. That is just a drop in the bucket.It seems disingenuous to me to assume that outside groups like CAFA who do not wish to be a part of Tryon might brainstorm and come up with many new ideas of ways to generate revenue for us. Where were they during the past 10n years? We have already implemented a great many ideas that are saving us money and that are generating new revenues. When I became mayor of Tryon in 2001, we were taking in about $700,000 in ad valorem taxes per year, and we are still taking about the same amount of taxes after eight years. The reason for this is because we had to work with what we had. There was nowhere to grow; there still isnt. We began to systematically reduce positions, vehicles, overhead, maintenance costs, and began to increase productivity and in-house work. Our investments in new equipment have paid off. We have reaped the benefits of that equipment and we will continue to do so. We cut dispatch, reduced the number of police vehicles from seven to four, decreased overall employees by ten, did away with the managers car, and we did away with the town hall car. We also rented space upstairs and in other areas of town hall. Our greatest other income is from the cell tower near the water plant., and the tower on Tryon Peak. These rentals bring in a total of about $40,000 per year and save us three cents in tax. We are now at a juncture that does not allow us to make the wrong choice. I said before that we would grow or die. No one ever asked me what I meant. I mean the same thing now as I did then. Tryon must grow in tax base, land, building, revenue, or any other term you wish to add to ensure that we are a viable community. Let me give you one example. Inflation has risen an average of three percent per year since I have been mayor. Our average budget of $700,000 per year gives us a loss of $21,000 in buying power. Our growth rate has been at or below one percent or $7,000. The cumulative loss is as follows: 2002-$14,000; 2003-$28,000; 2004-$42,000; 2005-$56,000; 2006-$70,000; 2008-$84,000; and 2009-$98,000. This gives us a cumulative total loss of $372,000 worth of buying power in the past six years. In those years we cut taxes twice and did not raise them at all and yet we are told that we are wasteful and we just need to manage our budget better. This is from people who have never been to town hall to view a budget or come to a budget session.I have spent a great deal of time reviewing the annexed area. The following are my conclusions. We are dealing with 291 properties. Of those 76 do not have a Tryon address when we need to mail bills and tax notices. We also have five or more that are managed by trustees. The area also includes three tax-exempt properties. I know of at least sixteen properties where people are supporting annexation or are neutral. In the 191 remaining parcels I know that some others are either neutral or pro annexation and at least 25 of these parcels are one where one owner has more than one parcel in the area to be annexed. There are 100 parcels out of 291 that are not necessarily against our annexation. The estimated number of people in this total area is 406. If we count the 100 parcels and each parcel has two people, I conclude that roughly 200 or more people are not opposed or do not care about annexation. I also find it interesting that a great number of the leadership in CAFA do not live in Tryon and are not being annexed. I have a stack of letters from the past few years and nearly all of them are from outside our town limits and are not being annexed.I challenge all who read this to call Mr. Arbogast and tell him to do what he promised: support the annexation, not CAFA, and support the citizens of Tryon who elected him. J. Alan Peoples, mayor

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