• County moving forward with sales-tax increase proposal

    By: Jenna Deery


    CHARLOTTE - One of Mecklenburg County's biggest allies has yet to get behind a plan that would hike the sales tax to pay for teacher raises and to support the arts.
    The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce said it wants more action before it asks Mecklenburg County voters for more money, but despite the request, county leaders are moving forward with the proposal.
    Tuesday night's board meeting for the Mecklenburg County Commission was the last chance for commissioners to make any changes to a plan the board approved in June, which will ask voters to raise sales taxes by a quarter cent before it goes on the November ballot, but board Chairman Trevor Fuller turned down that opportunity.
    "There didn't seem to be any desire to take it off," said Fuller.
    Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, one of three commissioners who voted against the sales tax referendum, said he requested more discussion because he's concerned the plan doesn't have enough support. Opponents have criticized the commission for acting alone on the plan without consulting major stakeholders like the Chamber and state leaders.
    "Without community support, it's going to fail. It's going to fail because we didn't lay the ground work to make sure we had support," said Ridenhour.
    The Chamber still has not announced its support for the November sales tax referendum. The ballot question will ask voters to raise the sales tax a quarter cent to generate an extra $34 million.
    A week ago, the Chamber announced its plans to support and campaign for the City of Charlotte's $146 million bond referendum for transportation, housing and neighborhood improvement projects, which will be on the November ballot along with the county's proposal.
    The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce released a statement about where its support stands to Eyewitness News.
    It said: "The Charlotte Chamber supports additional funding for education, libraries and the arts. In our judgment, a more deliberative dialogue needs to take place in order to create consensus around any specific funding option. We would welcome the opportunity to participate in such a dialogue and to engage our members alongside others throughout the county."
    While commissioners stayed quiet during Tuesday's meeting, teachers spoke out to drum up support.
    "One-fourth of a penny will help the children of Mecklenburg County tremendously," said teacher MaryBeth Kubinski.
    If the sales tax referendum fails, county leaders have said an increase in property taxes or a cut in county services could be on the table to pay for raises.

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