By Jessie Burchette
Rowan County residents won’t be voting on adding a local sales tax or land-transfer fee in November.
Legislation passed by the General Assembly allows counties to hold a referendum on a quarter-cent sales tax, a .4-percent land transfer fee, or both.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners decided Monday to forego a referendum on either issue which, combined, could generate more than $4 million in revenue. The board didn’t officially vote, but all members nodded their heads in agreement when the issue came up.
Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell raised the question, pointing out that if the board wanted to seek a vote it would have to act very quickly to get the issue on the ballot. He cited conversations with the Board of Elections, which is in the process of completing the ballot for November.
“My preference is neither of the two,” Mitchell said.
Chairman Arnold Chamberlain said he would poll the board, asking for a nod of the head rather than a voice vote.
At that point, Commissioner Tina Hall asked County Manager Bill Cowan to provide information on how much the tax or transfer fee would net the county.
When Cowan started to speak, Chamberlain abruptly stopped him, saying he wanted to “finish what I was saying.”
Chamberlain insisted that he poll the board before Cowan provided information adding, “We’ve got three who don’t want it on the ballot.”
Hall and Commissioner Jim Sides said they would like to have the information and a discussion before the board was polled. But when Chamberlain went ahead with poll, Sides and Hall joined with Chamberlain, Mitchell and Jon Barber in opposing a referendum.
When allowed to speak, Cowan said a quarter-cent sales tax is projected to net the county around $2.4 million, while a .4-percent land-transfer fee would generate $1.9 million.
Sides weighed in, saying that the county could have adopted a revenue-neutral tax rate this year and he has no plans to support a new tax.
“That’s a nice little political statement,” said Chamberlain.
“My political statement is on my van,” said Sides, referring to his new van covered in signs and messages.
Chamberlain said that at some point in the future he might be persuaded to put the sales tax question on the ballot, but vowed he will never support a land-transfer tax.
“Ditto,” said Barber.
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By Jessie Burchette