CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In a 7-2 vote the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners decided to put a quarter cent sales tax on the November ballot. If passed by voters, the new sales tax would generate roughly $50 million in revenue with $22.5 million going to arts and culture.
Although the vote was lopsided, commissioners had various reasons for supporting the measure. Four commissioners directly questioned the management of the Arts and Science Council, which proposed the sales tax in the first place.
Commissioners Trevor Fuller and Susan Rodriguez-McDowell indicated they supported public funding for arts and culture but largely defended their vote by saying that voters should have the chance to decide whether or not the tax should go into effect.
Commissioner Susan Harden was the most outspoken in favor of using public dollars to finance arts and culture in Mecklenburg County.
“Investments in culture create substantial return” Harden said.
“Think about what our community looks like when it’s a beacon for the creative class.”
Commissioners Elaine Powell and Pat Cotham were the only 'no’ votes. Cotham raised several concerns but said ultimately there were other issues that deserved funding before arts and culture.
“I have yet to have a single mother come to me, a struggling mother working two jobs, and say ‘if we could just have money for the arts my life would be so much better’,” Cotham said.
Powell, Vilma Leake and Mark Jerrell all raised concerns about the management and transparency of the Arts and Science Council. Powell said she had serious concerns about how the sales tax was brought to them in February.
The Arts and Science Council told commissioners it needed the public funding because donations to their organization were down.
“If you didn’t manage what you were able to beg from the public over the years something is wrong with the management process, so that needs to change,” Leake said.
County commissioners also approved the allocation for the expected revenues.
- $22.5 million for arts and culture.
- $17 million for parks and greenways.
- $8 million for education.
- $2.5 million for Mecklenburg County towns and cities.
Mecklenburg County residents will be able to vote on the quarter cent sales tax in November.