Publisher's note: The author of this post is Brenee Goforth for the John Locke Foundation.
Nearly every election cycle, a handful of counties place a sales tax referendum on the ballot. This primary season, four counties are doing just that: Wayne, Forsyth, Madison, and Chatham. This week, JLF's Joe Coletti published a research brief examining how those counties plan to spend the money if these tax increases pass.
This is not Wayne county's first go at a sales tax increase. Coletti writes:
- This is Wayne County's third attempt to gain approval for the sales tax...
- This time, commissioners promise to use the revenue to pay for a new $18 million elementary school and 39 other projects totaling $14 million... County commissioners have not said they would repeal the sales tax once projects are paid off, nor would voters likely trust such a promise.
It isn't Forsyth's first rodeo either. Coletti writes:
- The first time Forsyth County commissioners went to the voters for the quarter-cent sales tax increase, just 16 months ago, they threatened to raise increase the property tax rate by 3.1 cents if the referendum failed... despite the threat of higher property taxes, 68% of voters said no to the sales tax hike.
County Commissioners followed through with their promise to increase the property tax
. Even though the county only needed a two-cent property tax increase for its dedicated construction project, the county raised the property tax by three cents.
Now the county refuses to repeal the one-cent excess in property tax unless voters pass the sales tax hike this time. The tax hike supposedly will be dedicated to a boost in teachers' salaries. Voters have reasons to be wary, however, as Coletti explains:
- Voters might question just how much commissioners value Forsyth County teachers. Martin said, "if we don't get this, we can't do it, period." Clearly, the county could raise the property tax an additional 2.5 cents or use the 1 cent property tax increase it already imposed and find $8.3 million in savings elsewhere in its $454 million budget, or 1.8% of total spending.
County commissioners in Madison say they will dedicate much of the money from their proposed sales tax hike to repairing a school football stadium
. However, Coletti writes:
- There is no guarantee the money will go to education needs even if voters agree with the priorities listed by the Madison County Board of Education. Elected officials have often promised money for education, whether A-B Tech in Asheville or school construction from the state lottery only for the funds to supplant money for teachers or simply get diverted to the general fund.
Chatham has stated the money from their proposed sales tax hike will go to affordable housing. It is not clear how dedicated the commissioners are to that cause. Coletti references one county commissioner:
- "I think the affordable housing is a clearly demonstrated need and would expect to get the lion's share," Commissioner Jim Crawford said in October, "but I also like the idea of also finding out what else could be there."
Read the full brief HERE
. Learn more about the uncertainty of sales tax increases HERE