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Commissioners Consider Asking Voters For Sales Tax Hike

Mecklenburg County commissioners are entertaining the idea of asking voters if they want to add a quarter-cent sales tax to support education. Commissioners pledged not to raise taxes this year and they didn't. But voters may get a chance this November to decide for themselves. The commission is considering putting a quarter-cent sales tax on the ballot. At a county budget hearing in May, CMS teacher Larry Bosc and a handful of others proposed the idea. "We're asking you to support the democratic process and leave it up to the citizens of this county to decide for themselves if they're willing to pay to mitigate the enormous problems faced by our schools," said Bosc. Commissioners made massive cuts this year and next year the budget could be even tighter. CMS will lose $47 million in federal stimulus money and the City of Charlotte and the towns in the county say they won't help bail out the libraries again. A quarter-cent sales tax could give the county $30 million more to work with. For that reason, Commission Chairman Jennifer Roberts says she's willing to at least discuss putting a referendum on November's ballot. The tax itself wouldn't go into effect until next year. "People who have advocated that we put this on the ballot have said we should indicate that it is supporting education that we could help put those teaching positions back, help extend library hours, help Central Piedmont Community College," says Roberts. But other commissioners, like Neil Cooksey, say it's a bad idea to even consider. "If you vote to put it on the ballot you're saying to the citizens I think this is a good idea and I think we really need it. I don't think in good conscious I could say that," says Cooksey. Cooksey says the county should find more places to cut before asking residents to pay up. Commissioners could choose to discuss putting the sales tax before voters at its meeting next month.