Earlier this month, Cary voters overwhelmingly passed $225 million in parks and transportation bonds. In November, voters in other North Carolina communities — including several of the largest in the state — will weigh separate multimillion-dollar initiatives.
Roughly 15% of Cary voters weighed in on the referendums. Scheduling these ballot measures during low-turnout, off-year election contests, worries some government watchdogs.
“From a good government perspective, it’s a bit disheartening to see items on election ballots this fall that can have an impact on local tax rates,” said Mitch Kokai, John Locke Foundation senior political analyst. “The vast majority of people ignore these municipal elections, so those who do show up can have an outsized impact on their neighbors’ pocketbooks.”
Last year, nine of 32 N.C. sales tax referendums passed.
Mecklenburg and Cleveland sales tax increases
Cleveland and Mecklenburg counties will vote on a quarter-cent sales and use tax, which would amount to 5 cents on a $20-dollar purchase.
The General Assembly passed legislation in 2007 allowing every county a quarter-cent sales tax increase, as long as voters approved it in a referendum. Mecklenburg already tried in 2014, but the measure failed.
The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted in July to allocate the money primarily to the arts and to parks and recreation, but the vote doesn’t count as a guarantee on how money will be used. In Cleveland County, commissioners will wait until the referendum vote to decide how to allocate the money.
High Point bonds on roads, parks, and housing
High Point residents will vote on three multimillion-dollar bonds. The first initiative, costing $22 million, would cover street and sidewalk construction, including bridges, alleys, bicycle lanes, traffic controls, landscaping, and transit stops.
The second would spend $21.5 million to construct, renovate, and expand parks and recreational facilities, including senior centers, athletic fields, parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, shelters, and pool facilities.
The third, a $6.5-million bond, would fund housing projects for low- and moderate-income residents, covering construction and acquisition, as well as financial assistance to the residents. The referendum says higher taxes may be needed to pay off the principal and interest on the bonds.
Durham housing bond
Durham also has a housing bond on the ballot. The $95-million initiative would cover housing projects for residents with low and moderate incomes and provides for additional taxes if necessary to pay off the bond.
Davidson public facilities bond
A public facilities measure in Davidson would cost $14 million and involve building and improving municipal services facilities. That includes town hall space used for community meetings, as well as police, firefighting, and other administrative service facilities. The bond would also cover land acquisition costs. The referendum acknowledges higher taxes may be needed to cover the bond.
Clayton parks and recreation bond
Clayton will hold an $18 million bond referendum that would fund the acquisition, construction and equipping parks and recreation facilities. The initiative may require additional taxes to cover the bond.
The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners provided Carolina Journal with a comprehensive list of the November referendums.