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Voters turn down sales tax referendum

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By Brian Slattery

Brunswick County residents said no to the quarter-cent sales and use tax referendum Tuesday, May 6.

More than 58 percent of voters, 7,015 when the Beacon went to press, voted against the proposal.

Another 4,941 voters were in favor of the use of the tax for the purpose of funding school capital improvement projects and beach and waterway maintenance.

Sue Lehner of Ocean Isle Beach came out of her polling place at the Shallotte Armory and said she voted against the quarter-cent county sales tax increase.

She said she felt everything is being taxed and doesn’t want to add another one.

Necole Daniels of Shallotte said she had not heard much about the referendum or the reasons for the quarter-cent sales tax increase, but she didn’t want a tax increase.

“Any tax, I’m against, so I voted against it,” Daniels said.

Jane and Fred Bailey of Ocean Isle Beach said they both voted against the quarter-cent sales tax increase as there are too many taxes all around.

“We don’t want any new taxes,” Jane Bailey said.

“I voted for it, but it is a tax and people are fed up with taxes,” Board of Education member Bud Thorsen said Tuesday night. “The voters of Brunswick County showed that.”

Mary Berry of Ocean Isle Beach said she voted in favor of the referendum for a quarter-cent county sales tax increase.

“I think we need it. I don’t particularly want to pay for it, but I think we need it,” Berry said.

Amanda Hutcheson, Brunswick County’s public information officer, said according to County Manager Ann Hardy, if the referendum doesn’t pass, the county commissioners will have a discussion in the future about how to fund the school and beach projects.

“There has been a change at the federal government level (for local funding). This referendum is the beginning of the conversation that will continue about how we will fund projects,” Hutcheson said.

Board of Education Chairman John Thompson said if the referendum is voted down, the school board would have to go to the county commissioners to see if they could use the fund balance on any one-time projects.

“They are the sole provider of our capital,” Thompson said. “I think we have a good funds balance but everyone is hesitant to dip into the fund balance because it is for rainy days.”

But Thompson said that would only be a short-term solution for any pressing projects.

“We would then have to look more seriously at a bond referendum,” Thompson said.

He added the county and schools would like to stretch the timeframe on any talk of another bond until the current bond debt is paid off.

“But there aren’t many different paths we can take,” Thompson said.

Thompson said to handle ongoing repairs and replacing or building new school buildings totals about $120 million.

“Those are our needs,” he said.

 

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.