Cabarrus voters decide on sales tax
By Hugh Fisher
Today, voters in Cabarrus County will decide which option to use to help make up a shortfall in capital funds for schools.
A referendum today decides whether or not to allow the county to add a one-half cent sales tax.
Proceeds would go toward paying for $500 million in school construction debt.
Cabarrus County has built 17 new public schools and renovated or added onto 18 others in the past ten years, according to county statistics.
At Monday’s Cabarrus Board of Commissioners meeting, the vote was not an agenda item.
Yet, during the public comment portion of the meeting, one person spoke in favor of the tax.
Larry Marlow, a county resident, said schools have got to have the money.
The question, he said, is how to pay it. He supports a sales tax which would be paid by tourists and visitors as well as residents.
He said voting for the tax was like having an extra $50 or $100 that a property owner wouldn’t have to pay in new property taxes.
“Go get your neighbors, write it down right now,” Marlow said for the benefit of the audience and TV cameras recording the meeting.
“If your property tax goes up, it’s your own fault.”
No one else spoke for or against the tax.
The county has said the quarter-cent sales tax increase would bring in about $4.6 million a year.
That’s the equivalent of a 2.2-cent increase in the property tax rate.
Last month, Cabarrus commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting the sales tax.
The tax is time-limited and would expire with no further action after 20 years.
The referendum comes a week before the first of three workshop sessions to debate the county’s 2011-12 budget proposal, which was presented to commissioners Monday.
If the referendum fails, commissioners would have to look for further budget cuts or discuss a property tax hike to make up the difference.
During commissioners’ comments later at Mondays meeting, Chairman Jay White said that the cost of the sales tax would be spread across the tens of thousands of people who visit or pass through Cabarrus County.
“I would ask you to vote for it,” White said.
He also encouraged the public to attend budget sessions starting May 24 to learn more about how their taxes are spent.
Polls in all Cabarrus precincts are open today from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.