Wake County Commissioners debate impact of raising sales taxes to support schools

Posted by T. Keung Hui on July 11, 2014 

Members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners have a difference of opinion about whether a proposed quarter-cent increase in the sales tax rate that could be used to pay for raises for teachers would have a major impact on taxpayers.

Shoppers in Wake County now pay a 6.75 percent sales tax; 4.75 percent goes to the state and 2 percent goes to the county. Democratic commissioners want to put on the Nov. 4 ballot a referendum asking voters to support raising the sales tax rate by a quarter-cent.

The extra quarter-cent would generate an estimated $27 million a year in additional revenues. A Wake County household with the median income of $65,826 with an assumed 24 percent taxable spending would see an average impact of $40 per year.

“This is an opportunity to give the people of Wake County an opportunity to vote, to be able to decide whether they would like to do this or not, and it just makes perfect sense to me,” Democratic Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said at Monday’s meeting. “It’s not asking anyone to pay anything terribly different than they already pay for taxes.”

But Republican Commissioner Joe Bryan, the vice chairman of the board, said “now is not the time to raise taxes on top of a substantial tax increase as we limp out of a recession.” He said the sales tax increase has to be considered in light of how they’re raising property taxes by 8.25 percent this year to repay last fall’s $810 million school construction bond issue.

“You have substantial additional taxes on top of effectively again we are looking at a regressive tax on 120,000 people that are living in poverty who can least afford it,” Bryan said.

Commissioners will vote at their Aug. 4 meeting whether to put the referendum on the November ballot.

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