At a Tuesday afternoon, June 11 Guilford County Board of Commissioners work session, the commissioners set the date for the board’s adoption of a quarter-cent sales tax increase referendum on the November ballot.

There was some discussion as to whether or not that was the right time to spring it on the public; however, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said that it was appropriate to take the vote on the sales tax referendum on the same night the county adopts its new fiscal 2024-2025 county budget.

The commissioners’ vote for the quarter-cent increase on June 20 will merely instruct the Board of Elections to place the sales tax referendum on the ballot. Nothing happens unless more than 50 percent of Guilford County voters approve the new tax that’s estimated to bring in $25 million a year.

The commissioners have been putting the sales tax option on the ballot for Guilford County voters every two or three years for a decade and a half – once they even did so twice in the same year – however, in the past, county voters have always voted it down.

A state law passed in 2019 now requires counties to wait at least one year before placing the sales tax hike option on the ballot after voters have shot it down.

About half the counties in North Carolina have voted to approve the quarter-cent sales tax increase.

Commissioners and other advocates of the tax hike believe that this time it may be different in Guilford County because the board is going to promise that the proceeds will go to things like teacher salaries and lower-paid school employees.

Advocates of the sales tax hike argue that some of the revenue raised will come from people passing through the county or those who work and shop in Guilford County but live outside the county. So, the whole financial burden won’t fall on Guilford County residents.

 At the June work session, Guilford County Manager Mike Halford noted that – even if it does pass in November – it will be April of 2025 before new money can get to the schools. Estimates are that, if the sales tax hike is approved this November, roughly $6.25 million in school funding could be added to the school system’s 2024-2025 budget that ends on June 30, 2025.

Halford asked if the commissioners wanted staff to prepare the motion for the June 20 meeting and there was agreement that he should do so.

Several commissioners commented that the board would also need to discuss the best way to present the sales tax option to the public since it has been voted down so many times before.