HOPE MILLS — Town leaders will continue to be elected to two-year terms after the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night against a plan to change to four-year, staggered terms.
The board decided not to amend the town charter to change its election cycle.
Previously, a majority of the board members had said they would consider voting to change to four-year terms. Before the vote on Monday, Town Attorney Dan Hartzog Jr. the commissioners that they could vote for the change and put the issue before voters in a referendum.
“What you can do tonight, if you so choose — you can adopt the ordinance of amending the charter the way we’ve been discussing but make its implementation effective only on the application of the ballot,” said Hartzog.
Board members debated whether the issue should go before voters again. In a previous referendum, votes rejected changing the length of terms.
“I do agree it should go on the ballot again, but the implication I’m trying to take the voice away from the people — I take great offense to that,” Mayor Pro-Tem Kenjuana McCray said.
Commissioner Jerry Legge argued against another referendum.
“I don’t know why we would want it on the ballot again,” Legge said. “The people have spoken. We work for the people. They voted it down one time, and I can’t support it coming up again. Sorry.”
Commissioner Grilley Mitchell agreed with Legge that the people have spoken, but he said he believes that eventually, town residents will be ready to switch to four-year terms.
“We need to educate our community and voters and let them know the advantages and disadvantages in having the two-term system we have in place,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell told Mayor Jackie Warner he believes if they educate the people and had a board in place the people have faith in, then the people would be ready for a change.
McCray reiterated before the vote that she believes four-year terms are the future.
“But now is not the time,” she added.
Legge made a motion to reject the change, and Mitchell seconded it.
Town agrees to tax plan extension
Also Monday, the board voted to accept an extension of the sales tax interlocal agreement offered to the town by Cumberland County. The agreement directs how tax revenue is shared among Hope Mills and surrounding municipalities.
The vote was 3-2, with Commissioners Bryan Marley, Mitchell and McCray voting in favor and Commissioners Legge and Joanne Scarola opposing.
The county offered the Mayors Coalition an extension that allows Hope Mills to keep its portion of the shared tax revenue, estimated at about $1.9 million. The extension runs through June 2025.
Mayor Warner told the board this will be the last time the county offers an extension.
Warner, who chairs the Mayors Coalition, told the board voting against the agreement would make the town miss out on the $1.9 million.
Some feared that town residents would be taxed to make up for the loss in shared revenue.
"We have seen a growth in our allocation each year because our per-capita changed," Warner said. "The extension will keep our allocation at the 2022 rate with the county receiving the growth amount.
“We’re looking at the possibility of our revenue being increased anyway due to a property tax increase, not increasing our citizens’ taxes,” Warner said.
Before the council meeting ended, the board met in closed session with the town attorney to discuss personnel matters.