Local Politics

Durham seeks split of RDU sales tax

Posted October 8, 2009

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— Scraping for every possible dollar in a down economy, city and county leaders in Durham are pressing for a share of sales tax collected by retailers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Because RDU is located entirely within Wake County, the state Department of Revenue sends the local portion of the sales tax paid by flyers and others passing through the airport back to the county.

Revenue spokesman Robert Whitt said it's impossible to tell how much sales tax is collected at the airport since retailers submit their tax money on a countywide basis and not by specific location.

Durham seeks split of RDU sales tax Durham seeks split of RDU sales tax

Durham Mayor Bill Bell said Thursday that his city and Durham County are entitled to a portion of the tax since they helped establish the airport almost 70 years ago. Raleigh, Wake County, Durham and Durham County still divide membership of the board that oversees airport operations.

"It's a partnership. It was created by the four local governments," Bell said. "If any revenues are being distributed to any local government from the airport, it should be distributed to all of the parties."

Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley said the sales tax revenue shouldn't be divvied up because Wake County provides services to the airport, such as emergency services. He also said the county loses out on property taxes at RDU.

"We basically lose $6 million a year since the Airport Authority is a tax-exempt entity," Gurley said. "If Durham is willing to pay us for the property taxes that we are not collecting, I think that would be a good starting point for discussion."

Bell said he would be willing to allow Wake County to recoup the cost of services provided to RDU before splitting the rest of the sales tax revenue.

State Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said lawmakers could force a tax-sharing agreement if the local governments can't come to an understanding.

"I think (sharing the revenue) is only fair and equitable," McKissick said. "It could become somewhat controversial, but I think, if we don't start working on it, it will never get done."

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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Oct 9, 2009

    If Wake County splits the sales taxes for RDU with Durham County, Durham County should should split all of the taxes collected in RTP with Wake County seeing that most companies in RTP identify themselves with Raleigh and not Durham. I tell visitors to the area that you only go to Durham to get mugged, robbed, or killed. No other reason that I know of to go to Durham.

  • Red Oct 9, 2009

    Oldfirehorse - While you may be right about the property ownership being split between the four governments, there's a big difference between a government owning and having domain. If Durham were to buy speculative land in another city/county/state/country, it would not have the right to collect taxes there.

  • rick_slick Oct 9, 2009

    I love how all the focus is on the "lost" tax revenue and no mention of any benefit to having an airport nearby. Why don't we close the airport and everyone can drive to Charlotte or Greensboro and Durham can try and collect taxes on empty land. It never ceases to amaze me how government thinks all money belongs to them first.

  • hpr641 Oct 9, 2009

    "State Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said "I think (sharing the revenue) is only fair and equitable. It could become somewhat controversial, but I think, if we don't start working on it, it will never get done."

    Uh, Floyd, I can think of a VERY fair and equitable idea that, since you're a Democrat, you've never thought of: Make RDU a sales tax-free island.

  • oldfirehorse Oct 8, 2009

    "I thought RDU had its own police, fire, etc."

    It does, and in a big event all four would respond.

  • oldfirehorse Oct 8, 2009

    The property is jointly owned by the four governments. Not at all unusual. It's an interesting question with merit. That said, the following has to be about the dumbest thing I could think of to say in response:

    "We basically lose $6 million a year since the Airport Authority is a tax-exempt entity," Gurley said (Wake). "If Durham is willing to pay us for the property taxes that we are not collecting, I think that would be a good starting point for discussion."

    Since the property is jointly owned, all four local governments are losing the taxes not collected. Anyway, the il-logic of saying pay us your fair share of the money not collected is just plain stupid. Durham, should just counter with, ok, fine, we'll pay you 1/2 of the zero dollars you are collecting.

    After all the silly remarks are made, maybe they can then get down to business, and make some decisions.

  • sing2god Oct 8, 2009

    "When planes fly over counties on their approaches and departures to and from RDU, then those counties should receive compensation,and if residents have to buy heavy drapes to muffle jet noise they should be reimbursed. Just a thought:)"

    Typical rubbish. Did the folks that bought those houses not realize that there was an airport nearby?

  • RonnieR Oct 8, 2009

    I thought RDU had its own police, fire, etc.

  • chance Oct 8, 2009

    TOO FUNNY!!! Brings back memories of when Durham tried to have the name of the airport changed to the Durham-Raleigh Int'l Airport. Face it Durham ... the businesses in RTP which is technically located in Durham don't even want to be associated with your city. They ALL refer to themselves as the RALEIGH location. lol

  • taurismo Oct 8, 2009

    And Morrisville is in Wake County

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