Theater Owner Asks Commissioners For Property Tax Relief

The owner and operator of Smithfield Cinemas appeared Monday before Johnston County Commissioners asking for help.   John Shallcross said 2020 has been a very difficult year for the movie theater industry.  In 2020, Mr. Shallcross said the government forced his business to be closed 245 days.  They are now open but restricted to limited capacity and limited hours of operation.

“It’s been very difficult and we’ve lost a lot of money. We find ourselves unable to pay our property taxes this year,” Mr. Shallcross told commissioners. He asked for any relief possible.  He said he was hoping to received federal funds, and had applied for state grants, but so far had not received anything.

“Due to the government shutting us down, in my mind it is eminent domain. The government has taken away our ability to earn money through no fault of our own,” Mr. Shallcross stated.

Commissioner Tony Braswell asked Tax Administrator Jocelyn Andrews if there was any help the county could provide.  Andrews said their hands were tied.  Under state statute, any property taxes not paid by Jan. 5th will be assessed a two percent penalty on Jan. 6th and another three-quarters of a percent penalty every month thereafter.

Andrews said a number of businesses, like the theater industry, have suffered through the pandemic but there was no relief the County could offer to those businesses.

A number of businesses owners have asking state lawmakers for additional relief. The General Assembly has not approved any new measures that would specifically help companies struggling to pay property taxes.

Mr. Shallcross said Smithfield Cinemas is now only able to operate with 25 percent seating capacity and is forced to close at 10 o’clock at night. He said it is not a sustainable business model.