After campaigning in 2010 against the referendum to raise sales taxes in Watauga County a quarter-cent, the three Republican commissioners voted this morning to submit another referendum to the public to raise sales taxes in Watauga County a quarter-cent.
The vote was 3-1, with Tim Futrelle the lone vote against. Commissioner Jim Deal was absent.
The referendum will be held May 17. The election itself will cost the taxpayers approximately $25,000 - $30,000 ... same as the last sales tax referendum.
Remarkable the speed with which the resolution to call for this vote was conceived, developed, and acted on. The very first public utterance about a sales tax increase occurred near the end of the commissioners' pre-budget retreat on Saturday. By this morning, research had been completed on the scheduling of such a vote, and the resolution language had been drafted.
Speed is of the essence, obviously. If the referendum passes on May 17 and is certified, it will still be October 1, 2011, before the first collections can begin. As it is, and if the referendum passes, the county can only hope for additional revenue during eight months of FY2012.
The projected revenue to be raised for those eight months: $1,160,000.
The discussion focused on (a) the commissioner's unhappiness at having to do this and (b) blaming the new high school for the necessity. They put it in their resolution that the new sales tax referendum would be devoted exclusively to debt service.
Commissioner Vince Gable once again brought up his preference for a land-transfer tax, but legislation is already introduced in Raleigh (which will probably pass) to rescind the ability of counties to pass such a tax.
Food and medicine will be exempt from the sales tax increase.
Waiting until the second meeting in March to pass the resolution would cost the county three more months of revenue ... because of tricky timing issues.
Commissioner David Blust: If we don't pass this tax, then we're looking at a property tax increase or many more firings of employees.
Vince Gable: I know I'll get some grief over this for a "flip-flop on taxes, but it's apples and oranges, what the money will be used for versus the last referendum. I don't like spending the $30,000 on the election.
Nathan Miller: We're going to throw this up there and let the people decide.
David Blust: Our backs are against the wall.
Tim Futrelle: We found a way to balance the budget for the last three years without doing something like this.