Cabarrus voters endorse sales tax
By Hugh Fisher
CONCORD — Cabarrus County voters have approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for public education.
With all 46 precincts reporting Tuesday night, unofficial results showed 59.6 percent of voters in favor of the tax, with 2,261 votes cast.
There were 1,530 votes against the measure, totaling 40.4 percent.
Turnout was low: 31/2 percent of Cabarrus’ 108,408 registered voters went to the polls.
Commissioner Liz Poole, a former chairwoman of the Cabarrus Board of Education and currently a teacher at Concord High School, said she was pleased with the result.
“Nobody ever wants a tax increase,” Poole said. But she said the impact on most people would be slight.
Poole also said she felt the county had done all it could to inform the public.
“I wish the turnout had been greater,” Poole said, adding that such an important decision should have been made by a bigger percentage of voters.
Commission Chairman Jay White agreed, but said the vote showed Cabarrus residents appreciated the importance of helping the schools.
“This shows transparency,” White said. “The citizens know how much money is being collected … and they see the restrictions we’re placing on ourselves.”
Commissioner Larry Burrage, who was elected last November on a platform of lower taxes, said he was glad voters got the chance to choose what form of tax they’d see.
“This way, everybody who comes through Cabarrus County has to help pay it,” Burrage said.
One advantage of the sales tax touted by officials was that thousands of people who attend events, shop and travel through Cabarrus will help shoulder the burden, a fourth of a cent at a time.
But Burrage said that the time had come to stop increasing taxes.
“We can’t continue just to increase budgets and tax people,” Burrage said.
Likewise, not all voters agreed with the measure.
Phyllis Hall of Kannapolis voted against the sales tax.
“I just think we pay enough,” Hall said, standing outside her Kannapolis polling place. “People on a fixed income just can’t afford much more.”
Allan Cecil, also of Kannapolis, agreed. He also voted against the tax.
“Just like at my household, the government needs to work within a budget,” he said.
Shayne Fesperman of Kannapolis voted in favor of the sales tax, she said, because schools are important.
“Right now, I feel that our schools need all the help they can get,” Fesperman said.
Fesperman also said she was surprised by how few people had turned out. She was voter number 60 at her polling place.
White said the county had done much to publicize the vote since the referendum was announced in February.
In Kannapolis, the tax was mentioned at last Friday’s rally in support of education, held at A.L. Brown High School.
But Charles Mitchell, of the Kannapolis Board of Education, said earlier Tuesday that the tax hadn’t been heavily discussed to avoid overly politicizing the rally.
Kannapolis City Schools Superintendent Pam Cain could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.