We Are Improving!

We hope that you'll find our new look appealing and the site easier to navigate than before. Please pardon any 404's that you may see, we're trying to tidy those up!  Should you find yourself on a 404 page please use the search feature in the navigation bar.  

User Rating: 4 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Inactive

Dear Mayor Doughtie and the Roanoke Rapids City Council,

Please do not vote to decrease the tax rate by 2 cents.  

Our city needs more money.  Our city needs your support.

While a reduction may at first glance sound attractive to property owners, the reality is that the city’s budget has been cut significantly over the past 15 years, leading to reductions in city employee benefits, reductions in staffing, hours, building maintenance and services at the library, the rec center, our parks and ball fields, and the city pool. 

Mayor Doughtie, at the May 7th council meeting you asked, and I quote, “are we still trying to do things that maybe the public sector should be, or the volunteer people might could be doing?”   Your statement alludes to the discounted tax rate further reducing the funds we allocate for our city’s crucial employees and the services we offer, placing a greater burden on the community to volunteer or raise funding.  

With all due respect Mayor Doughtie, the public sector has already been doing things that the city should be doing.  

My children participate in many of the youth sports programs offered in the area.  

The vast majority of these programs are run by unpaid community volunteers, who raise tens of thousands of dollars in donations and local sponsorships and donate countless hours of their personal time year after year to benefit the community.

Scott Hall donates countless hours of his time to run the Roanoke Rapids Youth Baseball program at Ledgerwood Park.  

The donations that Scott Hall has solicited from private citizens and local businesses constructed the vast majority of the amenities at that park, including the playground, the batting cages, and countless upgrades to the baseball fields.  

These are city facilities that are being paid for and upgraded by private citizens.

Amanda Merritt donates countless hours of her time to run the Roanoke Valley Youth Soccer program at Chockoyotte Park, a large program that encourages youth participation from ages 3-15 in both the fall and the spring.  

 And guess what, Mayor Doughtie?  

When Chockoyotte Park needed to construct an addition to its concession stand, it wasn’t the city that stepped in to pay for it — it was the volunteer youth softball leadership group in collaboration with Tracy Story — who stepped in and paid for the addition to the concession stand (a city building), and had the work completed in just a few weeks. 

Derek Carr and Henry Ford donate countless hours of their time to run the Roanoke Rapids Midget and Flag Football programs at Doyle Field, programs they rebuilt from scratch post pandemic with the help of community volunteers.  

The donations that they solicited from private citizens and local businesses paid for all of the extremely expensive football gear.

The list goes on and on: The Roanoke Valley Rockfish, The Optimist Club, Good News Baptist Church, and Calvary Baptist Church run excellent sports and enrichment programs for our city’s youth as well, all on a volunteer basis.  

The Rewritten Story Foundation, Luke Clements and the McElheney Family donate tens of thousands of dollars every year to area causes — without much fanfare or recognition from the city.  

Justin Kerr spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to bring Emry Park back to life after years of city neglect.  

These are the heroes of our community.  

The city needs to do more to support the efforts of these community volunteers.  

The city needs to invest in our youth.  The city needs to invest in our city.

Mayor Doughtie, as an elected official you have been collecting a taxpayer-funded salary of $9,180 per year to be our mayor.  

Over the 14 years you have been in office, that amounts to $128,520, without adjusting for inflation.  

Mayor Doughtie, shouldn’t a wealthy successful business owner such as yourself be volunteering to serve as mayor and returning the $128,520 to the city and/or donating it to fund special projects geared towards improving the city?

Mayor Doughtie, have you been contributing financially in other ways to enrich our community?  Personally, I have never seen any of your family-owned businesses sponsoring local events, sports teams, or advertising in the local papers.  

The only place I have seen your name advertised is on Jerry McDaniel’s yard signs.

Mayor Doughtie, you said that you do not understand why the budget keeps going up, you spoke of the city needing to be run like a business, because, in your words, “businesses don’t have the luxury of charging people more.”  

Mayor Doughtie, businesses do charge people more.  

Prices always go up.  

Small businesses, too, have consistently funded city initiatives and improvements.  

Yet, the proposed budget fails to reflect this reality and prioritize these efforts to ensure that projects with community involvement receive city support.  

In fiscal year 2010, Mayor Doughtie’s first year in office, the city’s approved budget was $17,046,431.  

The most recent budget proposed by the city manager was $19,852,046 — an  increase of 10 percent from 2010.  

However, the Consumer Price Index has gone up 40 percent from 2010 to 2023, which means that to stay budget neutral from 2010, the city budget should really be no less than 40 percent higher than it was in 2010, which amounts to a budget of $23,986,112, just to match the purchasing power of what the budget was in 2010.  

The city manager’s proposed budget for 2024 is $4,134,066 less than it was in 2010 based on the value of a dollar.  

The budget hasn’t gone up Mayor Doughtie, it’s gone down significantly.  

The city needs to do better.

Mayor Pro Tem Smith, I have heard you speak multiple times about the need to protect seniors living on a fixed income.  

I would like to remind you that seniors are not adversely impacted by property tax increases, as there are state programs that ease the property tax burden on people 65 years of age or older that have owned their home for at least five years.  

That being said, let’s take a look at what city employee salaries look like compared to the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (SSI COLA) since 2010.   

A person receiving $30,000 in Social Security benefits in 2010 would have realized a 39.85 percent increase in their take home earnings for a total of $41,955.75 in 2023.

Mayor Pro Tem Smith, a city employee earning $30,000 in 2010 only realized a 29.42 percent increase over the same period of time, and that number is only so high because of the one-time $3,000 adjustment made for all city employees in CY 2023.  

For a higher earning city employee, the percentage increase sinks down closer to 25 percent, well below the Social Security COLA increase over the same period of time.  

What do you have to say about that, Mayor Pro Tem Smith?

Councilwoman Bryant and Mayor Pro Tem Smith, I have heard you both make numerous comments about how lucky city employees are to have the benefits that they do, and how great the city benefits are.  

I’m sorry to say, you are both just plain wrong.  

City employees have modest wages with considerable healthcare costs.  

For CY 2024, the cost for an employee to cover their family went up to $1,200 out of pocket per month, with a $500 deductible and 30 percent co-insurance.  

How many city employees can realistically afford to pay $1,200 per month to insure their families?  

It is shameful that several full-time city employees are forced to rely on food stamps and Medicaid benefits for their children to survive.  

The thing is, it wasn’t always this way.  

Councilman Stainback, you worked for the city for 30 years.  

You know what the benefits used to be, and you know how over the years they have been reduced significantly.  

I beg you to please speak up when other less informed members of the council and our mayor make public comments regarding how great the city benefits are.  

Families used to be fully covered by the city’s insurance plan.  

Now they need to pay $1,200 a month for what used to be an included benefit.  

The city needs to do better.  

The council shouldn’t be proposing further reductions in benefits for city employees, they should be proposing bringing back better benefits for city employees.

No one works for the city to get rich.  

Essentially every city employee is vastly underpaid.  

People work for the city because they love this city, and they want to see it succeed.  

The director of public works, Larry Chalker, could easily make double or triple his salary in the private sector with his wealth of knowledge and vast array of skills. 

His love of Roanoke Rapids is what keeps him working for the city.  

Halifax County just raised the minimum wage for county employees to $15 per hour, largely on the back of tax dollars they collect from the residents of Roanoke Rapids.  

The city of Roanoke Rapids still has part-time employees earning only $8 per hour.  

Why isn’t the city at least matching the county’s pay structure?  

The proposed lowered tax rate isn’t doing the city employees or the city at large any justice.  

No city employee should need food stamps to feed their family.  

No city employee should need Medicaid for their children.  

The budget needs to ensure that our employees are being paid a fair wage, with fair benefits.  We need to invest in our city.

Mayor Pro Tem Smith, you said that you “like the fact that the city is proposing cutting the tax rate down to 64 cents, at least that shows the citizens that we are trying to do something.”  

What exactly is the council trying to do?  Bankrupt the city?  

Ensure that sorely needed building maintenance is once again delayed due to budgetary constraints?  

Ensure that city employees continue to be vastly underpaid, not compared to any other area, but compared to Halifax County employees and Social Security recipients.  

Why isn’t the council proposing any budget line items towards civic improvement?  

Long Park looks like it could exist in post-nuclear meltdown Chernobyl — TJ Davis is falling apart — the library needs a technology upgrade and a new HVAC system.

Scotland Neck recently built a beautiful new playground on their main street, where is the civic investment in Roanoke Rapids?  

We need to invest in our city.

Mayor Doughtie stated that he doesn’t want “modest income” homeowners to suffer from the higher property tax rate.  

The reality of the situation is that Roanoke Rapids is a city of renters, many of whom live in government-sponsored housing developments.  

Modest income people can’t afford to buy a home here, because most of the housing inventory is owned by real estate investors and old money.  

Mayor Doughtie himself owns close to a dozen properties in the city, so of course he doesn’t want to see the property tax rate increased.  

Does the council really want to make home ownership possible for middle-income residents of Roanoke Rapids?  

Raise the property tax. Raise it a lot. Then offer a full rebate of that increase to owner-occupants.  Encourage people to live in the homes that they own.  

The real estate investors will quickly realize that they can’t raise their rents to cover the increases because the people living here simply can’t afford to pay higher rents.  

Only when these real estate investors are forced out will the housing prices return to where they should be, at a place where a modest income resident can live the American Dream of home ownership.  

Why should the city keep the property tax rates low for wealthy real estate investors and slumlords that — other than paying property tax — contribute nothing to our city?

In our county, the only municipality that has a lower property tax rate than us is Halifax.  According to the latest census, the population of Halifax is 162.  

The population of Roanoke Rapids is 14,856.  

Our tax rate should not be lowered to 64 cents, it needs to be closer to Littleton’s 80 cent rate.  Roanoke Rapids is a city full of renters.  

The proposed tax cut will only serve to help out of town real estate investors at the expense of the people that live here.  

We need to invest in our city.

Members of city council, if you believe that the recent reassessment is negatively impacting our citizens perhaps you should appeal to the county commissioners to lower their tax rate a few cents.  

The tax dollars generated from Roanoke Rapids are significantly more than those generated from any other municipality in the county.  

Despite this fact, Halifax County has been holding the city of Roanoke Rapids hostage with a $300,000 annual payment for 911 services, which makes us one of the only municipalities in the state of North Carolina making a separate payment for these services.  

When Halifax County was awarded a $500,000 grant to build a new, inclusive playground, Mr. Tony Brown, the former county manager — a current resident of Roanoke Rapids who recently sought a seat on our city council — awarded that grant to Scotland Neck, an aging community one-tenth the size of Roanoke Rapids with very few children.  

Halifax County recently received a large grant to construct a new Pre-K center in the county.  Prior to the funds being allocated, the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District was told that this grant money would be allocated for the construction of a new Pre-K building next to Manning Elementary to replace the crumbling Clara Hearne Pre-K building.  

However, when the grant money came through, Halifax County decided to award that money elsewhere in the county.  

The Halifax County Commissioners recently voted against supporting the proposed large-scale casino-entertainment complex as some of the commissioners worried about the “morality” of bringing legalized regulated gambling to the area.  

Aren’t all of the “sweepstakes” parlors that operate all over the county already a version of legalized unregulated gambling?  

Why doesn’t the county want to see Roanoke Rapids succeed?  

What has Halifax County done for Roanoke Rapids lately?  

Roanoke Rapids has been through a lot over the past 30 years and every elected official in the city has been here for it.  

The city has seen seven textile mills with 5,000 jobs disappear over that time.  

The mall — once anchored by JCPenney and K-Mart — is now an abandoned building.  Roanoke Avenue is lined with abandoned buildings and vacant lots.  

But you know what’s still here?  The people. 

The ones who stayed. The ones who left and came back. The people like you and my wife, and our children.  

We don’t need more mills or manufacturing operations to create jobs.  

The pandemic proved that the vast majority of skilled office jobs can be done remotely.  

Instead of exporting our talented young people to Raleigh and Charlotte when they graduate from college, they can live here, they can work from home, they can help our city survive and thrive, we can build this city up.  

We need to invest in our people to bring them back.  

We need to invest in our youth to secure our future. 

Councilwoman Bryant, when my family first moved to Roanoke Rapids, you asked my wife what the city could do to attract younger educated professional people to the city.  

Lowering the tax rate isn’t the way. 

The way to attract younger, educated, well-salaried remote workers such as myself and your son is to invest in the city.  Invest in the parks.  Invest in the recreation programs.  Invest in the library.  Invest in the arts.  Invest in Main Street.  Invest in the infrastructure.  Invest in recruiting and retaining quality employees.  Invest in the children.  Invest in the future.  

Citizens of Roanoke Rapids, please join me in making a public comment at the June 4th council meeting encouraging the council to reject the proposed property tax cut.  

The budget needs to increase, there are no corners left to cut.  

Roanoke Rapids is crumbling.  

The council needs to start talking about ways they can improve the city, improve the services, improve the benefits, improve the infrastructure.  

All of that costs money that the city doesn’t have and won’t have if the tax rate is lowered.  

We need to invest in our city.  

Citizens of Roanoke Rapids, use your platform.  

Stand beside me and let the council know that we deserve better.  

I hope to see you all on June 4th.  


Ephraim Brodsky

Roanoke Rapids

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.