Guilford County has a whole lot of major projects to pay for right now and it could have a billion or so more in expenses if a likely school bond referendum passes in 2020.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners, dominated by five Republican commissioners, has continuously refused to raise property taxes; however, on Monday, June 10, commissioners in both parties seemed open to another type of tax increase – a hike of a quarter-cent or a half-cent on the sales tax in Guilford County.
The subject was addressed during a discussion on school funding at a Monday work session in the Blue Room of the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro. Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Alan Branson brought up the matter in a question to Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing. At the meeting, Branson stated several reasons why the sales tax increase might be an appealing option and he asked the county manager how much money a one quarter cent increase it would raise.
“The last time we looked at this, the projection was somewhere around $16 million to $17 million,” Lawing said.
A current bill in the NC General Assembly – that may or may not become law – would allow counties to implement a half-cent sales tax for funding schools or other programs if voters approved the increase. That would presumably raise about $35 million a year in Guilford County.
However, voter approval is no easy task – several times before county voters have rejected a proposed sales tax increase.
According to Lawing, counties currently have a limited ability to implement a half-cent sales tax increase: Under the current law, that can only be done to fund transportation projects.
Money from a quarter-cent tax increase, on the other hand, could be used for any purpose.
Lawing told the board, “I do believe a sales tax somehow plays into additional school funding in our future.”
He added, “I don’t know if it would be approved or not.”
Branson also said it made sense.
“I know there are a lot of counties paying more than Guilford County residents in sales tax,” he said. “For me, that’s a fair tax for each and every individual that’s out there who buys goods – and it would help us fund some of these shortfalls we face.”