Some town leaders oppose tax hike to fund light rail expansion

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte city officials are touting an ambitious and expensive plan to solve transportation problems by expanding the light rail using taxpayers’ money.

The city’s transit goals, which include expanding the light rail, could cost between $8 billion and $12 billion.

A one-cent tax hike for residents in Mecklenburg County is being discussed.

Leaders in Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville told anchor Allison Latos that they are still frustrated over promises about the light rail expansion.

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“The problem that I’ve got, that my board has, and the problem I think a lot of my constituents have, is that we have been paying for 20-plus years and we have nothing to show for it,” Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox said.

The Charlotte Moves task force proposed a one-cent sales tax to fund a silver line from Matthews to the airport, and extend the blue line to Ballantyne.

“Now, you’re talking about $150 per year,” Huntersville Mayor John Anarella said. “That’s $600 a year for a family of four for something they receive no benefit from.”

[Some Mecklenburg County commissioners skeptical of transit sales tax increase]

Charlotte’s assistant city manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba said the tax would fund bus rapid transit to the northern towns, and include other improvements sooner.

“There will be other things built today for people who ride bikes, who walk on the street,” Jaiyeoba said. “If we can assure them of that, it will allow them to realize some gains in the first few years of the sales tax passage.”

Support in Mint Hill is hard to find.

“We’re not developed in any of the transit parts of the plan, any part of the greenway plan or even the bicycle part of the plan,” Mint Hill Mayor Brad Simmons said. “Mint Hill is not involved at all.”

Matthews Mayor John Higdon said his board is still vetting the sales tax, and they are undecided about their support.

“We keep the tax rates as low as possible. That’s really important to us,” Higdon said.

Charlotte leaders would like the sales tax proposal to be on the ballot in Mecklenburg County in November, but local leaders need approval from state lawmakers to do that.

City officials hope to start those talks in March, but that will be challenging without the towns’ support.

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