Local Politics

Local Tax Options to Appear on Ballots

Posted August 22, 2007 6:34 p.m. EDT
Updated August 22, 2007 10:33 p.m. EDT

— Voters in at least 20 North Carolina counties will get to decide ballot questions this fall on whether to impose new taxes to pay for new schools, roads and water and sewer lines.

State lawmakers included provisions in the new state budget for counties to seek voter approval for either a 0.25-cent local sales tax or a 0.4 percent levy on real estate sales to generate money for infrastructure needed to keep pace with growth.

Realtors fought the land transfer tax in the General Assembly, and they said they plan to take their battle to the counties.

"What we're going to see at the local level is (that) folks who are going to be directly impacted by this tax are going to be telling elected officials that this is a bad idea," said Rick Zechini, director of regulatory affairs for the North Carolina Association of Realtors. "The message is the same: It's an unfair tax."

Referenda will be placed on ballots in Chatham, Johnston, Harnett, and Moore counties. Officials in Durham and Orange counties are considering whether to put tax questions on their ballots.

Wake County officials have decided not to pursue the tax options this year.

"We have not had enough of what I would call a community debate and discussion about (it)," Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan said.

A land transfer tax would generate an estimated $40 million a year in Wake County, while a local sales tax would bring in about $30 million a year, officials said. A blue ribbon commission that studied local growth issues last year recommended the sales tax idea as one option for extra revenue.

"We will do it, but the timing I don't think is right at this time," Bryan said.

Bond proposals to raise money for Wake Tech, libraries and open-space preservation already will appear on the Wake County ballot this fall, he said, adding that local voters approved a $970 million school bond last November.

"There is not support in our community for either one of these (county-option taxes) at this time," he said.