Local Politics

Opinions Differ on Sales Tax Increase Proposal

Posted March 8, 2007 6:47 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2007 6:36 a.m. EST

— State Sen. Janet Cowell on Thursday proposed a voluntary one-cent sales tax increase for Wake and other counties to help pay for education.

Cowell, D-Wake, said the money generated from the extra penny levy on sales could raise about $20 million a year locally for school construction and other educational needs.

Her bill would allow a county to put the option of a local sales tax increase to a vote. It also would permit counties to charge a 1 percent fee on property transfers, which she said could raise another $100 million annually in Wake County.

"Right now, local government, that's really about all they've got—bonds and property taxes," Cowell said. "This would give them some other tools in the tool kit to distribute the need for resources so it's not always coming out of the property tax base."

Wake School Superintdent Del Burns on Tuesday proposed a budget of more than $1.1 billion for the 2007-2008 school year—an increase of nearly $75 million from last year. The budget calls for $305 million in support from the county, which is $29.4 million more than the current budget.

The school district is trying to keep pace with federal and state education requirements and a booming enrollment. Administrators expect 8,000 new students in area schools next fall.

Beyond the classroom, some members of the Wake County Commission are in favor of the one-cent sales tax option.

"It's not the seven county comissioners deciding independently," Commissioner Joe Bryan said. "It's the public saying for our quality of life, we recognize we need to make this investment."

Lawmakers agree that the school system needs cash to build more schools. They just don't agree on the funding method.

"We need to take the net proceeds from the state lottery and use those to fund a statewide schol bond," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake. "We can provide $4 billion to build schools in the state and not raise taxes."