The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is head over heels in love with Guilford County Schools, and now that the commissioners have put on the ballot and helped pass two school bond referendums totaling $2 billion, the commissioners are going to vote to put a quarter-cent sales tax hike option on the ballot in November of this year in order to provide an extra $25 million annually to help fund an increase in the salaries of school employees.

In the past, the commissioners and other local leaders who want to see the sales tax increase have tried all kinds of sales tactics, passed resolutions explaining the benefits of a sales tax increase,  and promised wholeheartedly how well they would use the proceeds.  They even promised once to reduce property taxes slightly if voters approved a sales tax increase.

This time around the plan is to promise to dedicate the proceeds to school salaries. The thinking is, in the past when it was promised to be used for school bond debt, that’s not as agreeable to voters as increasing the pay of school employees.

But they’re hoping that in 2024, the 7th time’s a charm.

However, it’s possible that, rather than being a failure of marketing, Guilford County voters just plain don’t want a sales tax increase.  It’s been on the ballot so many times that it was difficult to find out how often it’s been voted down.

Here’s the history of how the sales tax referendum has fared in the county.   In 2007, the NC General Assembly voted to allow counties to increase their sales tax by a quarter of a cent – if county voters approved.  So, the very first time Guilford County government could do so, it put the tax hike on the 2008 Primary ballot, where it failed.

 Since it failed then the commissioners put it back on the ballot six months later on the November ballot that year, only for it to fail again.

The county then put the measure on the ballot in the General Elections in 2010 and in 2014 and once again in 2020.

Since none of those turned out well for advocates, the board put it on the 2022 Primary Election ballot – where fewer voters turn out than in general elections, and it still lost.

Here’s how it has fared in past years, in the 2008 General Election, it failed massively with 65,329 voting for it and 148,798 voting against. In other words, it lost  30 percent to 70 percent.

Fourteen years ago, the advocates almost managed to get it passed: It came close in the 2010 General Election, when 66198 people voted for it, while 70,022 voted no. That vote came down to 49 percent voting yes and 51 percent voting against.

It didn’t fare nearly as well four years later, in the 2014 General Election when 68,735 voted for it and 91,962 voted against it.  That year it lost 43 percent to 57 percent.

In the 2020 General Election, 89,440 voted for it, while a whopping 181,033 voted against. That was 33 percent yes votes to 67 percent no votes.

In the 2022 Primary Election, 33,720 people voted for it, while 41,457 voted against.  That 45 percent to 55 percent vote didn’t cut it either.

And if the sales tax referendum is voted down this year, it’s probably a good bet that you’ll see in on the ballot again very soon.