HILLSBOROUGH — Community members asked for a quarter-cent sales-tax increase to be spent on economic development, schools and public safety if approved this fall.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners heard from the public Tuesday night about possible allocations for the local tax increase that voters will be asked to approve in a November referendum.
The public hearing drew a crowd of about 20 people and more than 10 people offered ideas on how to spend the money, should it pass, including Dan Jones, Chapel Hills fire chief, Aaron Nelson, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and Tony McKnight, chairman of the Orange County Board of Education.
If it passes, the one-quarter cent sales tax would generate $575,000 for the remainder of the 2010-11 fiscal year and $2.3 million for every year after that, said Frank Clifton, county manager. The tax would not include food purchases.
I think it only passes in todays climate with our support, said Nelson. He said the funds should also focus on business recruitment, business retention and marketing the community to be more attractive to potential businesses.
Jones asked that money be given to the countys EMS and 911 center to improve their 17 minute response time that he said was above the national standard.
When presented with facts, residents would support a tax to support the provision of public safety, he said. All of these other things pale when people feel threatened of unsafe.
Several housing and Realtor groups said their support for the tax was conditional upon the money going to economic development and infrastructure. Many who spoke said they supported the tax because it was non-regressive, and taxed everyone equally.
Education and programming in schools was another repeated request, with McKnight asking that all the money go to the Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools.
The sales tax will be on the ballot in 10 North Carolina counties this year, made possible by the 2007 General Assembly which granted county commissioners the authority to levy, with voter approval, an additional one-quarter cent sales tax.
The tax has already been approved by 15 counties. The sales tax in Orange County is currently 7.75 percent, with 5.75 percent going to the state and 2 percent to the county.
The board is set to discuss the publics comments at a work session on Thursday.