In the Tuesday, Nov. 3 election, Guilford County voters overwhelmingly approved a $300 million bond referendum to fund school construction and repairs, but those same voters also overwhelmingly voted down a quarter-cent sales tax referendum meant to foot the bill for that referendum.
This summer, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to put both items on the 2020 ballot, and the hope of many commissioners was that, if the school bond passed, the sales tax increase would pass as well. Otherwise, the county commissioners warned, a property tax increase would likely be needed to pay back that money.
But, apparently, many people like cute school children but not unattractive tax increases. The voters approved the school bonds by a margin of 73 percent to 27 percent, while they knocked down the sales tax referendum by a slightly smaller margin. That measure only got 33 percent yes votes to 67 percent no votes.
A sales tax option shows up on the county’s ballot every four years or so, and the voters always vote it down by a substantial margin.
In recent months, the school bonds have had a number of groups pushing hard for voters to approve them – everyone from teachers, parents and school administrators to economic development officials and elected officials – but the sales tax referendum hasn’t really been shown any love. Guilford County government did orchestrate an “information” campaign which accentuated the positives, but, once again, the voters weren’t buying.
School officials wanted to see a much larger school bond referendum of a billion dollars or more, however, the Republican-led Board of Commissioners only approved the smaller amount. Democratic commissioners argued that the schools needed much more than $300 million, however, Republican commissioners said that this money could be raised now and another referendum could be put on the ballot in 2022 to raise more money.