Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has served on the board for three decades – with one brief hiatus – so he knows how hard it is to persuade voters in Guilford County to approve a sales tax hike. Despite that, however, Alston said this week that he feels 2024 will be the year voters finally do approve a quarter-cent tax hike that’s estimated to bring in an additional $25 million, give or take, in revenue every year.

On Thursday, April 25, Alston said he’s convinced that, if the county commissioners commit to using that money to raise the salaries of school system employees – such as teachers and the woefully underpaid “classified” workers like janitors, bus drivers and cafeteria staff – then voters will be much more likely to mark their ballots yes in November.

He said that’s a lot more appealing to voters than having a sales tax that would be used to pay off school bond debt – as the board has pledged to do in the past.

The chairman said he was ever more convinced of that after a meeting this week between several county commissioners and Guilford County Schools officials.

“They were thrilled at the idea,” he said of the school officials’ view of presenting the sales tax increase to voters as a way to raise the salaries of school system employees.

He said there’s a widespread feeling among both county and school leaders that, for that purpose, the business community, parents and many other groups in the county could really get behind the effort to pass the tax hike.

On Thursday, Alston reiterated a sentiment he stated to the Rhino Times late last year.

“People always say they love teachers and school employees and they need better pay – well, this is the way for them to show it.”

Alston added that the county had already worked out a plan to pay off the $2 billion plus interest in school bond debt – largely thanks to the big jump in property values in the 2022 countywide property revaluation (with no offsetting “revenue neutral” reduction in the tax rate).

 With that debt funding plan now in place, he said, it opens up the opportunity to use these extra sales tax proceeds for school system salaries.

Alston said the next step in the process is for the Guilford County Board of Education to formally make the request to the Board of Commissioners to put the sales tax increase on the ballot and then the commissioners will vote to approve the move.