Mecklenburg County commissioners discuss possibility of new sales tax to benefit arts programs

Quarter-cent sales tax raise discussed at Mecklenburg County Commissioners Meeting

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County commissioners spent part of their Tuesday night meeting talking about the possibility of placing a sales tax referendum on the ballot for voters when the next election rolls around.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Arts and Science Council previously made a pitch to county commissioners for a new funding source. Members of the council proposed a quarter-cent sales tax, of which cultural projects would use $20 million a year. They said there would be an additional $30 million generated by the tax that would be available for other uses.

A poll was conducted by Well World Solutions, an independent research consultancy, to gauge how Mecklenburg County residents feel about the proposed quarter-cent sales tax. The results of the poll were presented to the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday night.

The results showed that just 31 percent of Mecklenburg County residents who were polled support raising the sales tax by a quarter-cent. However, 68 percent of people polled said they would support the tax increase if funds are earmarked to be spent on arts, science, history and heritage programs in the county.

Some commissioners took issue with the fact that many of the people polled were not registered voters.

“I think we really have to drill down to figure out where the community, where voters are, where likely voters are, not just registered (voters),” explained commissioner Mark Jerrell.

Some members of the board explained that they would like to learn more about how the public perceives the proposed referendum, before they move forward.

“The question is ‘are people willing to pay an additional tax when it’s not going to say that on the ballot?’ and oh by the way, it’s at the same time as we are doing a revaluation,” stated commissioner Trevor Fuller.

Other elected leaders did express interest in further studying the proposed referendum. Commissioner Susan Harden spoke about the importance of investing in programs for younger generations.

“I think that there’s a lot more work that we need to do to get to a ‘yes’ on this commission, but I’m ready to dig in and do that work,” said Harden.

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio explained to the board that Tuesday night’s conversations were just initial discussions. She said that county officials would have to reach out to different sectors in the community to garner support for the referendum if it was something the elected leaders seriously wanted to pursue.

Fuller questioned why the board was engaging in preliminary talks without a majority of the board agreeing that the topic should be investigated. The chair of the board responded.

“At the appropriate time we will decide whether we want to pursue this issue or not,” said commissioner George Dunlap.

No date was set for a future conversations on the matter.

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