Mecklenburg County sales tax referendum: ‘Going to be a big mess’

Charlotte Observer analyzes the chances of Mecklenburg County’s proposed sales tax hike passing. County commissioners put the quarter-cent sales tax hike–which would funds arts and parks– on the ballot last week.

Let’s start with the money quote from Commissioner Pat Cotham, who voted against putting the referendum on the ballot:

“People are going to say a resounding, ‘Hell no.’ This is going to be a big mess.”

The Observer points out that in 2014 voters rejected a sales tax hike that would help fund teacher pay raises, Central Piedmont Community College, libraries and the arts. This time will be different, proponents say:

In 2014, they say, there was just a few weeks to plan and run a campaign for the referendum.

“We’re optimistic that with more planning and more resources we’ll be in a position to educate voters about this,” said Valecia McDowell, who chairs the Arts and Science Council, which supports museums, educational programs and arts organizations with private donations and local tax dollars. “Based on what we’ve seen in the polling, if we have the time and resources we’ll be successful.”

But there will also be more time for the opposition to organize:

Former Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour started an online petition opposing the sales tax increase. It quickly gathered nearly 400 signatures.

Ridenhour and other critics have noted that county commissioners passed a nearly $2 billion budget earlier this year that will see property taxes go up for the vast majority of homeowners and businesses in the county.

“I think there will be a pretty broad coalition of folks opposed (to a tax hike),” Ridenhour said. “They realize it might only cost an extra penny or two on a lunch . . . (but) over the course of a year a penny here, a penny there, add up to a lot of money, especially in a year when property taxes have gone up. . . . That’s a double hit on people’s wallet the same year.”

Stay tuned–this will add quite a bit of excitement to an off-off year election.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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