Meck County voters reject sales tax hike; Lyles re-elected to second term

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Tuesday night, Mecklenburg County citizens voted against a quarter-cent sales tax increase.

The Partnership for a Better Mecklenburg is laying the blame partly on the ballot language not saying anything about the proposed allocation.

[CLICK >> LIVE Election Results]

The group says if Mecklenburg County wants to compete at a national level, the county needs to invest in the arts, parks or education.

For now, it is back to the drawing board for the Arts and Science Council.

The group says the results do not negate the need for investment, and they are going to continue to work to address these issues.

“We are about solving problems in our community, and so we will get together as a county commission, meet and move forward,” said Susan Harden, with Partnership for a Better Mecklenburg.

The group opposed to the tax compared the vote to “David versus Goliath.” At one point, Partnership for a Better Mecklenburg raised more than $800,000.

The group against the tax hike raised about $1,500.

The head of the Mecklenburg Tax Alliance, Matthew Ridenhour, attributes the sales tax rejection to people weighing out things like transit or affordable housing as more important priorities for the quarter-cent tax increase.

“There are certainly priorities that this community said ‘are priorities for this community and things that we need,’” Ridenhour said. “I think that people are saying, ‘These are priorities and funding this private organization is not.’”

The tax increase performed well in uptown, Dilworth and Myers Park but struggled in districts in the north, east and south areas of Mecklenburg County.

It did OK in west Mecklenburg.

Final results show 57% voted against it and 43% voted for it.

What was proposed:

  • 45% for the Arts and Science Council
  • 34% for parks
  • 16% for education
  • 5% for arts and culture in Mecklenburg County towns

Experts said that could have been changed if a future commission decides there are other priorities.

If voters passed it, the tax rate would've been 7.5%, which is the highest it can be under state law.

The sales tax increase was expected to generate $50 million a year. The referendum would've raised the sales tax a quarter of a cent to support arts, parks and education.

Charlotte's mayor re-elected

Democrat Vi Lyles won a second term as Charlotte’s mayor Tuesday night.

Lyles was off to a hot start when absentee voting results came in. She had 82%, or 16,492 votes, against Republican opponent David Rice with 18%, or 3,697 votes.

She later claimed victory as precincts first started rolling in with their results.

“In 2017, we made history with the commitment to bring better-paying jobs, affordable housing and transportation to Charlotte,” Lyles said to a group at her election watch event on Belmont Avenue. “Tonight, we’ve done it again, as Charlotte has elected its first two-term mayor in recent history! I’m looking forward to continuing to serve the Queen City.”

Lyles is the first mayor to be re-elected since Anthony Foxx.

She said her goal this term is to slow down, listen more and work with everyone.

Lyles also wants to help stop violence.

“We need to call in the neighborhoods now and say, ‘Help us do something about violence. How do we make sure we have great neighborhoods?’”

Lyles said she also believes it's time for the City Council terms to be longer, but that will be up to the citizens.

She will be sworn into office in December.

Charlotte City Council and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board candidates were are on the ballot. Click here to see the results.

Last-minute push for sales tax increase

You may have seen some of the last-minute efforts encouraging people to vote for the sales tax, like emails from the Discovery Place museum and Blumenthal Performing Arts.

Those emails show what the ballot language looks like for the sales tax and also outlines where the annual $50 million from the increase would go -- to fund arts, parks education and other projects.

But the emails come after a controversy surrounding a two-page advertisement that ran in the Sunday newspaper. The ads listed hundreds of people claiming to endorse the sales tax, but several people said their names were included on the list by mistake.

[Ad listing endorsements of proposed sales tax hike includes names added by mistake]

City Councilman Tariq Bohkari launched an ad in opposition to the tax, citing, in part, the most recent controversy with endorsements.

“They are listing people's names that didn't even give them permission to do so,” he said. “So you must go vote.”

The Partnership for a Better Mecklenburg, the group behind the ad, said they made the necessary corrections. The group has a major fundraising advantage that allowed them to be on radio and television with their message for weeks.