News Release Full Story

County Outlines Legislative Priorities to State Lawmakers

Feb 11, 2019

The Board of Commissioners met Feb. 11 with Cumberland County’s N.C. General Assembly delegation to discuss the county’s legislative priorities. Protecting the county’s prepared food and beverage tax is the County’s top priority for the long session, which started Jan. 30. Other top issues include seeking state participation in the Gray’s Creek public w­­­­­ater expansion project and funding for renovations, equipment and technology for the County’s future emergency operations and call center at 500 Executive Place.

Food and Beverage Tax

The 1 percent tax on prepared food and beverages sold in Cumberland County goes to the Civic Center Commission specifically for debt service on the facilities at the Crown Complex and any other costs of acquiring, constructing, maintaining, operating, marketing and promoting the four onsite facilities – the arena, auditorium/theater, Agri-Expo Center and Crown Coliseum, which opened in 1998.

County Manager Amy Cannon provided background information on the food and beverage tax, which was authorized in 1993.  The legislation has a sunset provision that the tax will be repealed once the debt service has been paid. The County is seeking to remove that provision and add the following: “The Cumberland County Civic Center Commission is authorized to acquire, construct, maintain, operate, market and promote any such arena, civic center, arts or entertainment facility that is approved by the Board of County Commissioners, whether or not such facility is affiliated with the existing civic center commonly known as the Crown Complex.”

Commissioners voted in 1993 to levy the tax after a lengthy due diligence period that included public hearings, Cannon said. The board’s goals were to build a venue, the Crown Coliseum, that would add to the quality of life and to use a dedicated tax that didn’t place the burden on property taxpayers.

Cannon presented financial information for the current fiscal year showing that food and beverage dollars are used to cover the debt, as well as the costs for maintenance and repairs/improvements and subsidizing the Crown operations. Most all publicly owned entertainment venues operate at a loss and require taxpayer subsidies, Cannon said. 

She told the group that $23.7 million remains of the original debt, which will be paid off in December 2024. Approximately $3.7 million is budgeted in FY2019 for debt service. The County refinanced the debt to capture a lower interest savings and to flatten the payments, which extended the payment period.  In addition, the Local Governing Commission (LGC) has approved $6.8 million in debt financing that will be finalized in FY2020 for significant, on-going maintenance and capital improvements to the aging facilities. That debt would end in 2027.

Commissioners have engaged in long-term planning and the County’s financial models use the dedicated food and beverage tax to cover projected expenditures, including $3.4 million annually for operating subsidy and $3.3 million in debt service. The models also include building a new performing arts center to replace the Crown Theatre. The commissioners postponed discussing a request for proposals for a performing arts center feasibility study on Feb. 7 and moved the item to their March 7 agenda session, after their meeting with the delegation and the food and beverage tax discussion.

Other topics

The following items were also discussed during the special meeting held in the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse.

Public Water - The County is pursuing options to bring potable public water to the Gray’s Creek area in the most economical and efficient manner and is seeking state participation in the project that will bring water to the areas affected by Gen X contamination. The County and PWC hired an engineering firm to prepare a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) and provide an evaluation of the best option to achieve this goal. The County has surveyed the owners of 643 parcels in the “Phase 1 Scenario” for the proposed public water extension project for planning purposes and to understand how many residents would be interested in connecting to a public water system if available. That information will be presented to commissioners on March 7 during their agenda session.

911 Services - Cumberland County purchased an existing building at 500 Executive Place in Fayetteville to house the County’s Emergency Services Department, which includes the 911 Call Center, Fire Marshal’s office and Emergency Management. These offices, and the County’s Emergency Operations Center, are now housed in the Law Enforcement Center next to the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Courthouse at 117 Dick St.

The County’s has an urgent need because its communications center and emergency operations center are outdated and obsolete. The county purchased the Executive Place building for $5.1 million in November. Renovations and upgrades to the facility are estimated to run between $15 million and $17 million, with approximately $4 million of that total going toward the technology needs for a modern call center. Building a new center would cost more than $30 million.

The County will be seeking grant funding from the N.C. 911 Board during the upcoming grant cycle for renovation, hardware, equipment and associated technology costs.

Shaw Heights – County Manager Cannon outlined the following staff initiatives related to Shaw Heights.

  • Community Development Consolidated Five-Year Plan:  The County is in the process of developing a Request for Proposals to select a consultant for this HUD-required plan.  As a part of the plan, the County is planning to incorporate a targeted assessment of the housing issues/needs in the Shaw Heights area.  This assessment would include contact with the owners and the tenants in that area to get feedback on the specific needs for affordable housing.  In addition, a market study will be conducted that will provide needed economic and household data for grant opportunities.
  • Land Use Plan:  The prior land use plan for the Shaw Heights area was completed in 2008.  In conjunction with the housing study above, a Land Use Study of that area needs to be developed since there have been significant changes such as construction of I-295.
  • Public Health Nuisances:  One of the County’s legislative priorities is an amendment to G.S.153-A40 to give the County the authority to abate public health nuisances.  This legislative change would be beneficial in the Shaw Heights area as well as other properties in the unincorporated area.
  • Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ):  Staff will bring information to the commissioners on March 7 regarding granting ETJ to the City of Fayetteville. ETJ relates to a transfer of zoning, subdivision ordinances and housing and building codes and regulations. 

The agenda packet and food and beverage presentation are posted on the County’s website at http://www.co.cumberland.nc.us/departments/county-manager-group/county-manager-office/governmental-affairs.