Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — While there’s no statewide referendum for North Carolina voters to decide during the Nov. 6 general election, citizens across the state will have the task of deciding 27 separate local ballot issues.
Six counties — Alamance, Edgecombe, Greene, Pasquotank, Scotland, and Swain — will decide whether to adopt an additional 0.25 cent sales tax. Another, Orange, will vote on a half-cent sales tax for local and regional transit purposes.
Three counties — Clay, Greene, and Swain — will be asking voters to alter the makeup or method of election of their board of county commissioners.
Then there are municipal referendums, ranging from bond issues to the sale of a water system to banning smoking on the beach.
One ballot measure that has gained a lot of attention is the $37 million bond referendum for a new riverfront baseball stadium in Wilmington. If approved, the Atlanta Braves would move a Class A minor league team into the Port City. Officials say that the city property tax rate would need to be increased by 2.5 cents per $100 valuation to pay off the bonds.
Across the state, Asheville voters will decide whether the city will sell or lease its water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District. Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved a bill allowing such sewerage districts to also become water districts.
Cary residents will decide three different bond issues, totaling $80 million. Those bonds would provide money to build and equip fire station facilities, build a new park while expanding others, and providing nearly $58 million in transportation funds.
Town officials say that passage of the three bond referendums would necessitate an increase of 2 cents per $100 valuation in property taxes next year, and an additional 2 cents in 2015.
Supporters of quarter-cent sales tax increases in six counties will be hoping to buck a trend of unsuccessful referendums during even-year general elections. While such tax increases have passed during off-year elections and during even-year primary balloting, none have passed during even-year general elections.
In Alamance County, voters defeated the sales tax referendum two years ago. This year, local commissioners are linking the proposed tax increase to a separate ballot issue, a $15 million bond referendum for Alamance Community College for an applied technology center.
Commissioners have linked the two issues. If both pass, commissioners intend to use about $1.3 million a year in revenues to pay off the bonds. Another $2.5 million would be earmarked for economic development purposes.
“It would allow us to gear up for companies to come to the area to have sites ready,” said Tom Manning, commissioners chairman.
Manning said that if the community college bonds pass but the sales tax increase doesn’t, then the bonds likely will not be issued since they’ve also adopted a resolution stipulating that a source other than property tax increases would be used to pay off the bonds.
“We don’t think there is another source,” Manning said.
Wake County voters will be deciding on $200 million in bonds for Wake County Community College. If approved, bonds could be used to pay for three new instructional buildings on the Northern Wake Campus, expand the Public Safety Education Campus, provide renovations and repairs to the main campus, and start the construction of a new RTP Campus in Morrisville.
“No new tax increase is required for the debt service on these bonds,” Wake commissioners Chairman Paul Coble says on the commissioners’ website.
Also in Wake County, Morrisville residents will decide $20 million issues in two bond referendums. One is $14.3 million for street improvements, including completing the McCrimmon Parkway Extension, and another would provide $5.7 million for renovating the Morrisville Aquatics and Fitness Center, adding tennis courts and a new enclosed pool. Property taxes could be increased up to 4 cents per $100 valuation to pay off the bonds.
In Knightdale, voters will decide a $3 million park and recreation bond, with money being used to complete Phase 2 of the new town park. Money also would be used to develop a plaza on the park property, acquire adjacent property for future tennis courts, and add greenways and trails connecting to the rest of the park property. The bonds could increase the tax rate by 2 cents, according to the town’s website.
The Mecklenburg County town of Huntersville will be voting on a total of $30 million in bonds in three separate ballot measures — one for street construction and improvements, one for improvements of public facilities (including firefighting facilities, public safety administration, and streetscaping), and one for recreation and parks facilities.
According to the Huntersville Herald, such bonds could add 3 cents to 5 cents to the town’s property tax rate.
The Union County town of Indian Trail will ask citizens to vote on $8.5 million in bonds to allow for the construction of two parks — Chestnut Park and Sardis Park. “The intent of the town council is not to raise taxes to pay for the construction of these two parks,” the town newsletter, The IT Factor, says. Instead, the town plans to use a capital reserve fund to pay back the bonds.
Clay County residents will be deciding whether to increase the number of members on its board of commissioners from three to five. It eventually would set up a rotating system, electing three members every two years, with the top two vote-getters serving four-year terms and the third highest serving a two-year term.
In Greene County, a referendum would change the residency requirement for county commissioners. Currently all five commissioners are elected at-large countywide, said board Chairman James Shackleford Jr. If the referendum is approved, a new district plan would be put in place. Commissioners would have to live in the district they represent, but they still would be elected countywide.
In Swain County, voters will decide whether to implement a new method of electing commissioners. If approved, the county’s voters would elect the board’s chairman to a four-year term. Two other commissioner candidates receiving the highest number of votes would serve four-year terms, with the next two highest vote-getters serving two-year terms. After that, four-year terms for all positions would be eliminating, providing for four-year terms for all board members.
Barry Smith is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.