Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said recently that he’s going to work hard in 2024 to get Guilford County a quarter-cent sales tax increase – something county residents have voted down many times before.

This week, two other commissioners announced they’ll use their positions on a state association of counties to push for a change in North Carolina law meant to help make that happen.

As the new sales tax hike effort gears up, it’s becoming crystal clear that Alston is going to get plenty of help from his fellow Democrats on the Board of Commissioners in the 2024 attempt to sway voters.

Commissioner Carly Cooke, who was recently named to serve on the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Public Education Steering Committee, said in a Friday, Dec. 8 press release, that she wants to see the education committee “increase advocacy at the state level for legislation enabling counties to propose a sales tax referendum and allow the option to add specific language that all proceeds be dedicated to school funding.”

Currently, by law, the language on the ballot cannot state how the proceeds of a sales tax hike will be used. Though the Guilford County Board of Commissioners is free to – as it has in the past – pass resolutions stating the board’s intentions for the $20 million or so that the increase would raise in the county.

Alston, Commissioner Kay Cashion and other county and school system officials have long contended that being able to officially earmark the extra sales tax revenue would finally convince Guilford County voters to approve the move.

The county and school officials hoping for the change are likely facing an uphill battle.  While Guilford County is run by a strong majority of Democrats who have no problem whatsoever raising taxes, the state legislature is made up of a very conservative Republican majority that has been lowering state taxes for over a decade.  They therefore are unlikely to be inclined to help Guilford County raise its taxes.

Nearly half of the state’s 100 counties have passed referendums approving a one-quarter of one percent sales tax increase.

They did so under the current law, but Guilford County officials have been unable to garner approval.

 Cooke said that this “simple modification” of ballot wording would “empower voters with the choice to increase and direct local revenue to our schools.”

Cashion, who serves on the NC Association of County Commissioners Tax and Finance Steering Committee, said she too will use that position to work to “seek legislation that includes specific language on the sales tax referendum ballot designating how proceeds will be used.”

Cashion has been working for that change, and hoping to see it happen, for years.