The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners appears close to asking voters to approve a new sales tax increase that would primarily support arts organizations in the Charlotte area.
A majority of the board has indicated it would support a ballot referendum on a new quarter-cent sales tax increase, projected to raise $50 million each year. Roughly half would go to the Arts & Science Council.
Should the initiative make it to this November’s ballot, it would be the second time in the past five years that voters have been asked to consider a new rise in the sales tax.
The issue is likely to dominate the city’s political discussion over the next few weeks. Here’s what you need to know about it.
What is the Mecklenburg County sales tax and where does the money go?
If you buy something within county limits, you will pay a total sales tax of 7.25 percent. That’s the third-highest rate in the state, behind just Durham and Orange counties.
The tax rate is pretty straightforward. If you buy something for $100, you’ll pay a total of $107.25.
The state collects 4.75 percent, and most counties add on another 2 percent. Mecklenburg County has already passed a half-cent (0.5 percent) sales tax used to pay for transit projects, the primary funding source for Charlotte’s light rail projects.
Legislation from 2007 authorizes counties to pass an additional quarter-cent (0.25 percent) sales tax to be used at their discretion. However, voters must approve the new tax.
Most counties in North Carolina have tried to pass this tax, with mixed success. Mecklenburg County is now proposing to increase the tax rate by a quarter-cent to fund several of its priorities.
Where would the new quarter-cent tax money go?
Mecklenburg County commissioners have proposed spreading the money raised by the sales tax increase between arts organizations, teachers and parks.
The largest chunk — just under half, or an expected $24.5 million per year — would go to the Arts & Science Council to support arts and cultural organizations across the county.
The next biggest chunk ($15 million) would go to county-operated parks and greenways, with another $2.5 million spread between the non-Charlotte towns in the county.
Finally, the county would send roughly $8 million more per year to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to supplement teacher salaries.
However, the county would not be bound by this plan if voters approve the sales tax increase.