State News

N.C. elections hearing focuses on real estate dues

Posted March 4, 2010 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2010 6:29 a.m. EST

— Election regulators will examine how the North Carolina Association of Realtors funded efforts to oppose local tax increases on land sales and whether it was legal to use mandatory member dues to pay for the undertaking.

The State Board of Elections plans to meet Thursday to discuss a 2008 complaint against the North Carolina Association of Realtors by Wake County real estate agent Becky Harper.

In 2007, state lawmakers gave approval for counties to seek referendums on a 0.4 percent tax on real estate sales to collect funds for growth-related infrastructure such as new schools, roads or water and sewer lines. The tax was defeated 20 straight times at the ballot box.

Campaigns over the issue grew intense, with the Realtors association raising $10 million to oppose it. On the other hand, Orange County officials spent $100,000 in taxpayer money on an "educational campaign" to inform local voters about the tax.

Harper said the association shouldn't have assessed a one-time $70 fee on members that she said paid for political campaigns such as opposing land transfer tax increases. Association leaders said all the money didn't go toward fighting issues.

An election board investigation found the Realtors association did not break campaign finance laws. But board Executive Director Gary Bartlett said additional questions were raised.