Board votes to ask state for sales tax referendum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2013

SALISBURY — Voters could see a local option 1-cent sales tax increase on the ballots in November, if the N.C. General Assembly agrees with county commissioners.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to ask lawmakers to place the increase in front of voters this fall.
Vice Chairman Craig Pierce said the increase of 1 cent per dollar would also include a property tax decrease of between 2 and 4 cents per $100 valuation.
A quarter of the proposed sales tax increase would be reserved for capital projects like buildings and equipment.
Pierce said he wants to develop a capital improvement plan to help with projects like new EMS stations in the eastern and western parts of the county.
“I have spoken with several of our delegation in Raleigh and they will take it to the General Assembly and we believe we will have favorable results,” Pierce said. “This is not asking them to pass this resolution without the citizens of Rowan County being able to vote on this resolution.”
Commissioners approved the measure Monday at a regular board meeting.
Commissioner Mike Caskey was the only vote against. Caskey said the proposal was “put together well” but said he vowed not to raise taxes.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell supported the action and said the increase should be part of a local and state tax reform.
“The bottom line is stuff rolls down hill and it’s always going to end up at the consumer where it’s going to be paid,” Mitchell said. “Bottom line, that’s who pays the tax — the consumer.”
Chairman Jim Sides said county commissioners have the ability to ask lawmakers to enact the sales tax, but commissioners are asking for a referendum instead.
“We think citizens ought to have the input,” Sides said. “We’re simply asking (legislators) to give us the authority to put it on the ballot and let our citizens decide whether they want to pay it or not.”
Sides said he’s not in favor of raising taxes, but he’s interested in seeing what the public thinks of it.
He also said the county has done well in managing funds, working on a “barebones budget,” and keeping cuts minimal.
“But the reality is, at some point in time, we’re going to have to raise taxes one way or another,” Sides said. “I certainly think a sales tax is better than a property tax.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.