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County sales-tax hike will be on November ballot

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Rowan County voters will decide Nov. 3 on an additional quarter-cent sales tax to pay for a jail and an emergency radio system.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday evening to put the issue on the ballot.
County Manager Gary Page said the county has $18 million in immediate needs ó $6 million for a jail mandated by the state and $12 million for radio towers and radios mandated by federal changes.
Page said the county has no choice: It will have to build the jail, build three to four radio towers and buy hundreds of new digital radios for law enforcement and firefighters.
If voters reject the quarter-cent tax, Page said commissioners will have to find another way to finance those needs ó either cut $2 million of current services or raise property taxes by two cents.
Under the plan, the county would borrow the $18 million needed for 10 years, with the annual repayment at $2 million.
Initially, the sales tax issue was on the consent agenda ó items set for approval with no discussion.
At the outset, Commissioner Tina Hall had the issue pulled and added to the regular agenda for discussion.
Hall noted that in November voters will have the opportunity to decide how the county will pay.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell called it the fairest tax, saying he would like to see all federal and state income taxes replaced with a sales tax.
“Sales tax is the fairest tax we have,” Commissioner Raymond Coltrain said, agreeing with Mitchell.
Chairman Carl Ford stressed the county has no choice in providing the emergency equipment and jail. “We’re giving people a choice,” he said. “If they vote it down, we’ll go back to the drawing board and see where we can get the money.”
Vice Chairman Jon Barber, who made the motion to approve the ballot issue, suggested that if the tax raises extra dollars, they be used to lower property taxes.
Officials noted that if the tax is approved, collection would not begin until April of 2010, and the county would not receive the first payment until July of 2010.

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