Commissioners unanimously send county sales tax to voters

Commissioners receive a plaque declaring the county "Age Friendly."

Commissioners unanimously send county sales tax to voters
August 09
03:00 2018

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

Forsyth County commissioners unanimously approved placing a referendum for a quarter-cent county sales tax on the November ballot during their meeting on Thursday last week.

If voters ratify it, the tax will apply to purchases in Forsyth County, except gas and groceries. The money raised by the tax would go to pay for the debt from building the new county courthouse. This sales tax is in lieu of a property tax increase that was originally proposed in this year’s budget and, if it fails, commissioners would have to raise property taxes higher next year.

County Commissioner Vice Chairman Don Martin was the first to push for the tax. Commissioners Fleming El-Amin and Everette Witherspoon had voiced opposition to it, calling the tax regressive since poor people will have to pay it. However, once El-Amin realized it wouldn’t be applied to groceries and gas, he said he could support it.

Witherspoon still believes the tax is regressive, pointing to exceptions to the grocery exemption, like sodas, and necessities like diapers that will be taxed.  However, he said ultimately he was going to leave it up to voters to decide.

“I may not agree with it, but at the same time the voters have a right to decide on the increase in the sales tax,” said Witherspoon.

Also during the meeting, commissioners accepted a $169,750 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant from the U.S. Justice Department that’s split between the Sheriff’s Office and the Winston-Salem Police Department. The Sheriff’s Office will use its $84,875 to replace the surveillance camera on the mobile command unit, refresh supplies in its use of force simulator and purchase red dot rifle sites and holographic sights for guns used by the SWAT team. Byrne grant funds had been delayed across the country by litigation disputing if the Trump Administration could withhold those funds from “sanctuary” cities and states.

The Forsyth County Veterans Treatment Court, whose funding recently expired, also uses a federal Byrne grant it receives through the Governor’s Crime Commission. Late last month, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx said in a statement to Triad City Beat that the court’s funding “is in the process of being restored.” The court’s coordinator couldn’t be reached by The Chronicle before press time.

In other business:

*Commissioners approved $412,243 in incentives over five years for hardware and accessory manufacturer Grass America in Kernersville. This is half of the company’s estimated property tax and is contingent on the company making $31 million in investment and creating 44 new jobs. The company did not meet all its goals in its previous county incentive package in 2009, so it was only paid about half of the incentives that had been agreed upon for that deal.

*Commissioner approved spending $1.3 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant funds to finance the construction of 96 affordable housing units in phase 2 of the Enclave Apartment Complex in Northern Winston-Salem.

* County commissioners receive a plaque from residents who led the effort to have Forsyth County join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The designation denotes the community’s support for its aging population and gives the county access to a network of resources for seniors.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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