• Officials: Proposed Meck. Co. sales-tax increase would affect airlines

    By: Jenna Deery


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - American Airlines is dead set against the plan to raise the sales tax in Mecklenburg County.
    The billion-dollar airline says its bottom line will take a half-million-dollar hit.
    A Channel 9 investigation uncovered the fact that the airline has reached out to the commission since it made a referendum vote on the sales tax official.
    Eyewitness News reporter Jenna Deery learned at least five board members have been contacted by the airline.
    Some commissioners said they were approached by a director at American Airlines expressing the airline's opposition to this proposal.
    Other commissioners said they have been asked to talk about it but they are not backing down regardless of how the airline feels.
    American Airlines has helped provide Mecklenburg County with thousands of jobs and tourism dollars.
    But the sales tax proposal may be forcing the airline into conversations with county leaders to protect the company's money.
    Last week, commissioners approved putting a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot.
    The resolution said money generated would fund teacher raises, libraries and the arts.
    The tax increase would also apply to the airline's purchases of jet fuel.
    Commissioner Karen Bentley said, in an email, that she spoke with a representative from American Airlines last week.
    "I can confirm that (American Airlines) are not supportive of this increase in the sales tax. If passed, it is a $500,000-plus hit to their bottom line. Given that they are one of the largest employers in Mecklenburg County, we should be concerned about this."
    Board Vice Chairman Dumont Clarke supports the tax hike.
    He said he was asked if he would be open to a conversation with American Airlines about the issue.
    He said no meeting has been set up and nothing has been suggested to revise what has been proposed.
    "We are concerned about any tax increase that will affect our customers and business operations. Our customers already pay $60, or 20 percent, in taxes on a typical $300 round-trip ticket," airline officials said in a statement.

    Voters will get the choice in November whether to pay an extra quarter-penny sales tax on everything purchased in Mecklenburg County. Most of the money generated would go to help boost teacher pay.

    “I think the teachers do deserve a raise but I guess I'm not for an overall sales tax in this economy,” Doug Slack, a Mecklenburg County resident, said.  

    The businesses voters buy from would have to pay the higher taxes and some are worried they could pass on the cost to customers.

    “It's high enough now. It's very expensive to fly,” Theresa Fuchs said. “I'm not in favor of it. No.”   

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