Why I’m running against Joseph Burleson – The Stanly County Tax Referrendum

As candidate for commissioner to replace Joseph Burleson for Stanly County District 3, I will refrain from the gutter-sniping personal attacks that the Justin Burr campaign seem to be so keen on using in his race for the District 67 House race, but I feel it proper to criticize my opponent on his political actions. Those actions, after all, are why I’m running to replace him. This article deals solely with the Sales Tax Referendum that came up before the board in April of 2017.

In April 2017, commissioner Burleson tried to sneak an agenda item onto the calendar that he hoped would quickly be discussed and adopted. That agenda item was a change to the way Stanly County distributes sales tax to its municipalities. Let me break that down one more step for those that don’t read legaleze.

What exactly is a municipality?

Municipalities are the local areas that our county is broken up into; townships, cities, villages, etc. Stanly County has ten municipalities: Albemarle, Badin, Locust, Misenheimer, New London, Norwood, Oakboro, Red Cross, Richfield and Stanfield.  The state collects sales tax from every dollar spent within our county whether it be at a gas station, convenience store, movie theater, restaurant, or any other taxable business transaction. If someone buys something in this county, a small percentage of that is collected by the state and then given back to the county based on a formula. We use a “per-capita” formula currently and have for many years.  Based on that formula a certain percentage of that sales tax is given back to the municipalities to spend on things in their jurisdiction. For example, Badin pays their police department from those funds. They also use it for improvements within their borders. It’s the money that runs the municipality. Make sense?

Keep in mind that there are areas in the county that aren’t necessarily located within the borders of a municipality. If you live outside of those borders then you live what’s referred to as an unincorporated area, or what we locally call “in the county.” The county itself gets another percentage of that collected monies to use for its purposes. Stanly county uses it to fund the Sheriff’s department, the community college, and many other things as well.

Why was it last minute?

There is no obvious reason to introduce something commissioner Burleson obviously knew so much about except to try to get it squeezed through quietly before anyone had a chance to argue with it. If you watch the video below, you’ll see Joseph admit that while the board didn’t know anything about this yet, he already had plenty of information about it at his disposal. Why was that not shared with the board before this meeting? When the board chairman tried to table the discussion until they had time to discuss the matter and learn more details, Burleson tried to push on anyway. Let me clarify, just in case it’s not clear: the meeting agenda had already been published. This amendment was stuck onto the agenda at the last minute intentionally, two weeks before the budget was due.

What was the change?

The change commissioner Burleson wanted to put into effect would redistribute the money for each municipality by changing the formula we use to decide what money goes where. Remember I told you before, we have a system in place now called “per capita” that distributes the money to each municipality? What he was proposing was to switch to a system called “ad valorem” and reallocate the tax revenue according to that formula instead. His argument was that the board knew better than the municipalities did how to better distribute money to each of them, and that it could reclaim that money for  the county itself to be distributed wherever the board of commissioners chose to do so.

What would it have done to the county?

Put simply – it would have closed the doors for some of our municipalities completely. He would have literally bankrupted some areas of Stanly County specifically so the board could hold the purse strings and determine who gets what money. It would likely resulted in either closing three police departments entirely, or raising their property taxes to regenerate the revenue they’d need to remain open. Places like Stanfield would have had to close their ball fields ,their police department, and more.

Surely, you exaggerate?

I kind of figured you’d say that. I mean, who would do that, right? Thankfully county manager Andy Lucas took it upon himself earlier that day to figure out exactly how much this money would affect each area of the county, and provided that information to the board before the meeting. After seeing those numbers, commissioner Burleson STILL wanted to do this. I got my hands on a copy of that document and I’ll share the figures here with you. Click the municipality below to see how the change would affect each of them, each of you!

Stanly County's Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $8,910,255.50

Tax Revenue if Changed: $10,707,458.96

Money Gained: $1,797,203.46

Total Change: +17% Boost to Stanly County’s Revenue

Albemarle's Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $3,470, 210.43

Tax Revenue if Changed: $2,790,981.89

Money Lost: $679,228.55

Total Change: -20% to Albemarle’s Income

Badin Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $427,314.11

Tax Revenue if Changed: $99,499.37

Money Lost: $327.814.74

Total Change: -77% to Badin’s Income

That’s right. You read that correctly. He wanted to strip Badin of almost 80% of its income! Can you imagine losing 80% of your income by the stroke of someone’s pen?

Locust Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $634,522.85

Tax Revenue if Changed: $539,714.15

Money Lost: $94,808.70

Total Change: -15% to Locust’s Income

Misenheimer Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $148,137.69

Tax Revenue if Changed: $13,355.08

Money Lost: $134, 802.62

Total Change: -91% to Misenheimer’s Income

Misenheimer is the only one hit even worse than Badin. Can you imagine being told tomorrow that from now on you have to run your police department or clean up your streets, or run any of a hundred other different programs, but you now only have 9% of the money you had yesterday to do it?

New London Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $133,338.48

Tax Revenue if Changed: $81,498.05

Money Lost: $51,840.44

Total Change: -39% to New London’s Income

Norwood Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $516,063.83

Tax Revenue if Changed: $502,517.31

Money Lost: $13,546.52

Total Change: -3% to Norwood’s Income

Oakboro Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $423,690.51

Tax Revenue if Changed: $289.709.27

Money Lost: $133,981.25

Total Change: -32% to Oakboro’s Income

Red Cross Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $163,640.55

Tax Revenue if Changed: $32,299.03

Money Lost: $124,341.53

Total Change: -76% to Red Cross’ Income

It’s not like the income for the entire municipality of Red Cross is that high to begin with. You could basically purchase one two-bedroom home for what Red Cross runs on each year. Under Burleson’s sytstem – forget the house altogether. You might be able to get a deal on a used Econoline van to live in though…

Richfield Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $136,758.42

Tax Revenue if Changed: $53,652.93

Money Lost: $83,105.49

Total Change: -61% to Richfield’s Income

Stanfield Budget

Tax Revenue Currently: $355,541.08

Tax Revenue if Changed: $181,807.43

Money Lost: $153,733.65

Total Change: -46% to Stanfield’s Income

So even after receiving those figures, he made the argument that Stanly County would be better served if the County itself ripped 1.3 million dollars from the other municipalities in order to better achieve county-wide goals, regardless of the fact that places like Misenhiemer and Badin would have to close their police departments entirely.

For me, as a voter, the other half of the issue is that one of two things is true:

  1. He knew all this, and still chose to try to slide the legislation through hoping no one would catch it.
  2. He didn’t know any of this, in which case he shouldn’t be making these kinds of decisions.

I personally found it intriguing that the Burleson/Burr goon squad apparently knew about it in advance, yet three of the commissioners had no idea this was coming.

Fact Checking

If you get to know me, you’ll learn that I abhor “facts” that can’t be backed up. I can’t stand supposition standing in place of actual facts. Either you can prove something to me with data, or we need to table the discussion until data can be obtained to substantiate an opinion either way. With that in mind, here is the video recording of the entire commissioners meeting on April 17, 2017 so you can fact-check my story. I’ve linked the video below to start at 45 minutes and 22 seconds into the meeting, the exact moment the topic comes up for discussion.

Alternatively, you can read the SNAP article published about the meeting by clicking this link.

Thankfully, Matthew Swain, who usually votes Burleson’s way, decided to vote with the other three commissioners at that meeting to agree to table the discussion and have another emergency meeting to discuss the topic before the deadline at the end of April. Yes… the same month. Burleson brought up the idea when he knew there would be little time to challenge it or delve into it too deeply. Otherwise, why not bring it up some time the previous fall and discuss it in detail before bringing it before the community in the first place?

The details of the emergency meeting are also published on YouTube and available for you to review.



Fourteen different individuals stood up to speak about this issue. You can hear each of them speak below by clicking their name to hear their comments. I encourage you to watch how many entire town councils showed up to oppose this act. The room was packed to bursting with the opposition to this idea.

Take just a moment to appreciate the image below.  This isn’t a concert or a parade. It’s the picture of an entire county’s residents cramming as many of themselves in one room as possible simply to support each other in saying NO to this horrible idea.

My stance on the topic

My stance on the topic is pretty simple. Much like the Board of Health consolidation with DSS, this action was designed to put more money and more power in the hands of a few politicians that don’t need it. There is no reason for Stanly County to feel the need to govern its municipalities like parents – holding their hand and doling out only what they think appropriate.

Our municipalities do a great job on their own and Stanly County doesn’t have the resources to take on the additional tasks that would be required if something like this passed. Where would we get a dozen or so new Sheriff’s deputies to replace the ones that just got fired? Who is going to be sure the ball field stays open for our kids?  Stanly County deserves political leaders that truly care about ALL the constituents, not just a select few.