Local Politics

Land-transfer tax loses 20th straight vote

Posted May 6, 2008 8:54 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2008 1:18 p.m. EDT

— Voters in Orange County and three other counties on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a land-transfer tax, marking the 20th time in 20 votes statewide the tax has lost at the polls.

Meanwhile, a quarter-cent local sales tax met opposition in most of the seven area counties that considered the measure.

In Orange County, 66 percent – 28,053 – of the votes cast were against the land-transfer tax, with 34 percent – 14,288 – for it. The proposal also was defeated by sizable margins in Ashe, Gates and Tyrrell counties.

The tax would have collected 0.4 percent of the sale price for homes and other real estate.

State lawmakers approved the land-transfer tax option last year to give counties a way to raise money to deal with growth-related spending, such as new schools, improved roads and expanded water and sewer systems.

Prior to Tuesday’s election, Orange County officials spent $100,000 in taxpayer money on an "educational campaign" to inform local voters about the tax. Opponents criticized the move, saying the county was spending tax money to advocate another tax.

Realtors, developers and other special interest groups have led the opposition to the transfer tax across the state since last year.

Orange County Commissioner Moses Carey said previously that he and his colleagues opted for the transfer tax because it would impact fewer people than a sales tax, which lawmakers also offered as an option for cash-strapped counties.

Six months ago, 16 counties put the proposal on the ballot, and voters in all of them overwhelmingly rejected it.

The local sales tax did better last fall, with five counties approving it.

On Tuesday, 82 percent of Wayne County voters rejected a local sales tax, as did 73 percent in Wilson County, 63 percent in Moore County, 61 percent in Nash County, 55 percent in Lee County and 68 percent in Edgecombe County.

The tax referendum passed in Cumberland County with 52 percent of the vote.