Fuller: Mecklenburg County doesn’t have time to delay sales tax referendum

08/11/2014 4:50 PM

02/03/2015 6:46 PM

As debate continues over Mecklenburg County’s November sales tax referendum, county commission Chairman Trevor Fuller said Monday that the county doesn’t have “the luxury of time” to delay the issue.

The board voted 5-4 in June to let voters decide whether to bump the local sales tax rate by a quarter-cent. Most of the added revenue, 80 percent, would go to raise the pay of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees. An additional 7.5 percent would go to raising pay at Central Piedmont Community College and 7.5 percent to the Arts & Science Council. The balance would go to public libraries.

Last week, some commissioners who voted against the referendum said the board should pull the matter for more discussion. Some Charlotte City Council members said they were concerned that the referendum would distract from the city’s $146 million bond referendum.

But Fuller on Monday was steadfast in keeping the matter on the ballot.

He said a new state law that requires referendums to be held on even years would make 2016 the next opportunity to set a referendum. State legislators, he said, seem opento capping local sales tax rates at 2.5 cents as the Senate considered, but did not act on this past session. Mecklenburg’s rate is already 2.5 cents, so a quarter-cent would take it over that cap.

“We just don’t have the luxury of time to be able to wait for some other year to do this,” Fuller said. “We won’t be able to come back down this road until 2016, and I believe that cap will be imposed before then.

“This is our only chance to get this done.”

Meanwhile, the referendum was endorsed Monday by MeckED, a nonprofit education advocacy group.

A source said Fuller spoke to the executive committee of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce on Monday about his reasons for keeping the referendum on the ballot. Fuller wouldn’t confirm the meeting. The Chamber said the committee discussed the sales tax issue privately, but declined any other comment. Staff Writer Eric Frazier contributed.

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