Part of proposed county sales tax will go to schools if OK’d

If voters ratify the quarter-cent county sales tax this November, a portion of the revenues it generates will go to the school system.

Part of proposed county sales tax will go to schools if OK’d
October 11
09:57 2018

If voters ratify the quarter-cent county sales tax this November, a portion of the revenues it generates will go to the school system.

The county originally placed the quarter-cent tax, which would not apply to gas and groceries, on the ballot as a way to cover the debt from building a new courthouse. It’s estimated that it’ll bring in several million in excess revenue after it covers that debt. During their Oct. 4 meeting, county commissioners voted to apply the school funding formula to that excess revenue so 40 percent of it will go to the school system.

This new allocation was done at the request of the county school board. The board had been criticized by teachers, after a viral video showed county commissioners telling Superintendent Beverly Emory that the school board could “just ask” for more money for supplements from the county’s budget. Emory and the school board told teachers last month they’d been discussing other ways to increase supplements and using part of the proposed sales tax was one of them.

“Some said, and it was written in the paper numerous times, that nobody asked,  ‘Just ask.’” School Board Member Lida Calvert Hayes told commissioners. “So I’m here to ask.”

Most of the school board was in attendance and sitting beside them was Parkland Teacher Tripp Jeffers, who had to take time off to be at the commissioners’ meeting, which takes place at 2 p.m. Jeffers was one of numerous teachers that criticized the board last month, but applauded the action last week.

“This is a very good first step,” he said.

The sales tax could bring in $1.2 million to $1.4 million for the schools. This would easily cover the school system’s first year of its six-year plan to increase supplements, which would cost $1 million. The second year would cost nearly $1.9 and continue increasing until it costs $5.2 million by the sixth year.

As School Board Chairwoman Dana Caudill Jones thanked commissioners for their support, she told them the board is working on how to pay for the rest.

“We also want to let you know we have been working on a plan, so when your budget cycle comes around in January or February, hopefully we will have something in front of you,” she said.

Commissioner Everette Witherspoon, who had told Emory to ask for supplement money, was pleased to see the school board speaking up.

“The Good Book says you have not because you ask not,” he said. “I want to thank you for coming up and asking because at the end of the day, the teaching profession is the best profession that we have.”

Commissioner Richard Linville introduced an addition to the resolution that allocates the rest of the excess revenues, beyond the school system’s 40 percent, to capital expenditures or reducing property taxes. This is what commissioners approved by a 7-1 vote.

Witherspoon was the one “no” vote because he wanted to vote on a clean version of the resolution without Linville’s addition. He didn’t think that the commissioners should be allocating the rest of the money now, when it might be needed for other things in the future.

Commissioners can still alter or eliminate any of the allocations for the potential tax’s revenue in the future.

Forsyth County Association of Educators President Ronda Mays said that her organization will now urge people to vote for the tax to support teachers. The county, which by law cannot advocate for it, will be updating its printed informational materials for the tax to include where the excess revenue will go.

If the sales tax fails and the county has to instead raise property taxes next year for debt service, the school system would receive no revenue from that. 

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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