At the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Thursday, June 20 meeting, the commissioners made it official: The board voted unanimously to put a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the November 2024 ballot, and they also adopted a resolution stating that the new money raised “would provide a significant revenue source for the anticipated expense required to provide sufficient funding to increase compensation for our educators and classified employees.”

“Classified employees” are the ones such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers and janitors who have notoriously been very poorly paid in the past.

The board made the move even though this will be the seventh time the quarter-cent sales tax option has been on the ballot in Guilford County, and even though voters have said no thanks in those previous elections – often by a very wide margin.

However, as they say, the seventh time’s a charm.

At least, that’s what the county commissioners are hoping, and, during the discussion preceding the official adoption of the ballot measure and the resolution supporting it, the commissioners were already starting to sell the virtues of the new tax increase to the community.

 This time around the board is using a carrot and stick approach. One carrot is that, since it is a sales tax, it will be paid, to some extent – perhaps 25 percent to 30 percent – by those who pass through and work in Guilford County but who don’t live in the county. Another carrot is that, this time around, the Board of Commissioners is promising to use the money for pay raises for educators and classified employees.

The stick is stated clearly in the resolution the county adopted on June 20: “Whereas, the passage of the one-quarter cent county sales and use tax would help to prevent significant increase in the property tax burden on homeowners and local businesses….”

So, if you don’t pass the sales tax, you can expect higher property tax rates in the future.

Commissioner Frankie Jones said at the June 20 meeting that he believes some county residents don’t understand how small the increase would be. He said some people hear the words “quarter-cent sales tax increase” and think perhaps it would be an increase of a quarter per dollar.

But he pointed out that’s not the case.

“It’s a fraction of a penny, he said. “What it is is a fraction of a penny, not a quarter of a dollar. I think that’s a critical part of this.”

Jones said that, if you want to visualize it, take a penny out of your pocket and look at it and then imagine 25 percent of that penny being taken away.

He also pointed out that the tax increases wouldn’t apply to many items such as groceries, gasoline and medicine.

Jones also stressed that non-resident visitors to the county would be paying a good portion of the tax.

Commissioner Pat Tilman said he believed it was possible to convince Guilford County voters to approve the measure since counties more conservative than Guilford County had done so.

Roughly half of the 100 counties in North Carolina have approved a sales tax increase.

 “We need it,” Tillman said, adding that it would go toward helping pay school system employees.

My belief is that, if we educate the voters and inform them, then it can pass,” Tillman said, adding, “It’s working in the counties that have adopted it.”

The sales tax, if voters approve it later this year, is estimated to provide about $25 million in extra revenue for Guilford County government. That money would start rolling in around April of 2025.

Guilford County voters should expect a massive publicity push for adoption of the sales tax hike by county leaders, school leaders and community organizations leading up to the election.