Some commissioners want a county sales tax

Some commissioners want a county sales tax
March 15
10:49 2018

Forsyth County commissioners are considering a quarter-cent county sales tax.

A staff presentation was given to the commissioners about the county sales tax option last month. County Commissioner Chair Don Martin likes the idea and renewed the discussion about it during last week’s county briefing on March 8.

In 2007, the General Assembly gave counties the ability to charge a one-fourth of a cent sales tax.  This would have to be approved in a voter referendum on an even numbered year and would not apply to groceries or gas. The county could apply the money to whatever it chooses.

The tax would bring in an estimated $12.7 million. A 2003 study solicited by the county found that 33 percent of sales tax revenue in Forsyth is from purchases made by non-county residents. According to a 2013 estimate, a quarter cent sales tax would generate $3.3 million from non-county residents.

Martin has proposed using the generated revenue by in-county residents to lower county property tax by 2.3 cents, which is the same amount that taxes are scheduled go up in the next budget to pay for court facilities debt leveling. He’s also proposed that some of the $3.3 million generated by non-county residents be used for teacher pay incentives.

Commissioner Chair Dave Plyler has already said he liked the idea. Last week, Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt also said she’d support it if they could get updated economic estimates.

“I’m in favor of this if I have what I feel is updated information,” she said. “I’d hate to go out there and try to sell it and then the numbers come in a lot lower.”

Commissioners Everette Witherspoon and Fleming El-Amin have said they oppose the tax. They called it a regressive tax that gives property owners a break while everyone pays more. They didn’t believe residents would vote for such a tax.

Other counties have had a challenge passing such taxes. While 31 counties have successfully done so, 38 counties have had the quarter-cent tax rejected by voters. Counties whose voters passed a quarter cent-sales tax include Davidson, Surry, Orange and Durham. Counties whose voters rejected the tax include Guilford, Yadkin, Davie and Mecklenburg.

County staff is working on getting more economic information for commissioners and no vote has been scheduled on this proposal yet.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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