- Local governments turning to bonds and sales tax referendums due to rising interest rates and inflation.
During November’s midterm elections, five counties will vote on a referendum to raise their county’s sales tax by a quarter of a percent. Many other counties are proposing bond referendums to fund various projects within their counties.
“When a government issues bonds, it is increasing its debt,” said Brian Balfour, senior vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation. “In short, the government sells these bonds to raise money now with a promise to pay back those who bought the bonds over time, plus interest. What many voters don’t realize is that approving a bond will likely result in their taxes being raised to pay back this debt.”
Balfour said the amount of the bond cited on the ballot doesn’t represent the entire amount of debt because it leaves out the interest payments, which often can be substantial.
He said bond referendums are pretty numerous this fall for a couple of reasons:
First, governments see interest rates rising and realize their debt will continue to become more expensive in the future. Second, economic conditions are turning south, and they may project that getting bonds approved may be more difficult during a recession when voters are more motivated to constrain government debt.
Bladen County in the southeast of the state has many citizens who have expressed their desire for more secure schools and would like the tax increase to fund more school resource officers.
“We have to be prepared.” Bladen County Sheriff James McVicker told Border Belt independent, “I pray to God every night when I go to bed that we don’t have an incident in Bladen, and I want to make absolutely sure that doesn’t happen.”
Out west, Macon County voters will have their say on whether to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase, which would raise $1.7 in additional revenue. According to highlandsnews.com, there are plans to build a new high school with the additional tax revenue.
Raising the sales tax was deemed less burdensome than raising the ad valorem property-tax rate by two cents.
New Hanover County, the home of coastal city Wilmington, will be voting to raise their sales tax from 7% to 7.25%, the difference between $7 and $7.25 for every $100 purchased. County Manager Chris Coudriet said that the increase could amount to $14 million in extra revenue. The revenue would be used to upgrade New Hanover County’s Wave Transit system, including adding bus stops, reducing wait times, and providing wifi on every bus.
“Projects like these have been shown to benefit economic development – with every $1 invested in public transportation efforts like these generating $5 in economic returns,” said Coudriet.
Eastern N.C.’s Wayne County is voting to raise its sales tax to fund the school district’s needs for new school construction, classroom additions, renovations or campus updates, and safety and security upgrades. According to the Wayne County Public Schools website, the tax increase will take in $2.6 million annually from taxpayers, which would go toward school-improvement needs they say are well over $100 million in total cost.
Wayne County’s revenue from the North Carolina Education Lottery is restricted and is currently being used to pay off the $46.8 million needed to fund the construction of Grantham and Spring Creek middle schools.
Cleveland County, just west of Charlotte, is voting to raise its sales tax to fund various school projects. The additional revenue would raise around $3 million. Officials say supporting the referendum will allow residents to impact funding improvements for county schools significantly, making the community a better place to live, work, learn and play.
You can find the complete list of county tax increases and bond referendums on November ballots statewide here.