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Halifax County Fee Proves Controversial

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ROANOKE RAPIDS — The subject of raising taxes is not a popular topic right now among lawmakers. But some say Halifax County is raising taxes without actually calling it a tax. Other counties may follow. Instead of calling it a tax, the new bill is said to be a "fee." But some people are not buying it.

Countless numbers of people can thank the Union Mission for turning their lives around. The Christian organization in Roanoke Rapids feeds the homeless, gives them a place to live, and even teaches them to work.

As a non-profit group, the Union Mission does not pay property taxes. But the organization still received a bill for nearly $400 from the tax office for the charity's seven properties.

For now, the Union Mission is refusing to pay the fee. Its attorney is looking at whether the charge is even legal.

"We could feed 223 people with the money we would have to use to pay their user''s fee or tax, or whatever you want to call it," said Union Mission Director Rev. Peter Scardino.

Halifax County is charging everyone who owns land $57 per property. Churches, charities, everyone has to pay. The money pays for access to the county's landfill, and eight dump stations, but the county insists it is not a tax.

"In fact, there is a general statute that allows the local governments to assess an availability fee for solid waste service, and that is what this fee does. It's not a tax in disguise," Halifax County Spokesperson Doris Hawkins said.

"The word tax is repeated on there over and over again, and the tax department is collecting this money, so I don't know what else you could call it but a tax," Scardino said.

"It is not considered to be a tax, it just happens that the tax office is the agency, if you want to call it that, that is collecting these fees for the county," Hawkins said.

Whether it is a tax in disguise or not, the fee stands for now, but the talking is not over yet. County commissioners plan to gather at the courthouse again next week to take another look at the issue.


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