Souls to the polls


Saturday, October 30, 2010 - 5:30am to 7:00am


United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 MLK Jr. Blvd

It may be hard to think of a tax increase as "justice," but Orange County has an example of just that in its proposal on the November ballot to raise the sales tax by one-quarter cent. A portion of the revenue if this wins approval will go toward providing a solution for Habitat for Humanity homeowners in Efland (many of whose homes were built by our member churches), who have been facing a 300 percent increase in their sewer rates. Justice United agrees that this tax increase, which means paying 25 cents more per every $100 you spend, equals social justice.

We will gather at 9:30am at United Church.  After a brief press conference with our partner groups, we will walk over to the Seymour Center to cast our votes. 


I'm all for raising taxes when there is a need, but the county government keeps putting out this attitude that they're entitled to the money somehow. It started with the transfer tax (WORST idea ever) and now it's continued to the sales tax. Beyond saying times are tough, don't increase taxes, I wonder what the point of this tax increase is.The county needs to do more in building a tax base outside property taxes. This means that Chapel Hill and Carrboro might have to allow (gasp) development that isn't solely local. What about the idea of a Costco in Carrboro? What about more retail? What about that Giant shopping center out in Mebane (Buckhorn?)?Make it easier for businesses to want to come to Orange County and for consumers to spend money here instead of going to Durham.  A sales tax actually does the opposite, it will drive people to spend more money outside the county

a sales tax is inherently regressive.and after some years this one can be spent any way those in office desire.there must be a better way to ensure socially responsible budgetary allocations.=Tofu Dave

Regressive, yes, but much less so since it will not apply to groceries, gas, prescription medications and medical supplies, and some farm supplies.

Yes Dave, there is a better way.  It was on the ballot two years ago, but thanks to heavy lobbying by the real estate industry it was defated.


The transfer tax was defeated by outside money.[Note: this comment was accidentally deleted. I have reproduced it to the best of my memory. -Ed.]

First, I will vote for the new tax.  All told it seems better than an increase in the property tax rate.  I did not vote for the real estate sales tax two years ago and my decision had nothing to do with the lobbying blitz by the real estate industry. I was disappointed that those lobbying against it did not present reasonable alternatives.  It is irrelevant now but it seemed like an intrinsically unfair tax that was being pushed by its proponents for opportunistic reasons.  I did not and still do not think it was preferable to an increase in the property tax rate.  At least an increase in the property tax rate would be shared by all property owners in a reasonably fair manner.  The proposed real estate sales tax would have been a tax on mobility, on people who are forced or choose to move for various reasons.  Proponents of that tax were saying that a positive feature of the tax was that it would not have to be paid as property was passed from generation to generation.  So some property owners would not have to meet this tax requirement for generations while others would pay the tax each time they moved.  In both cases the value of the property would change in the same way and the requirements of the County would be similar.  Given the current economic situation, if the tax had been passed, it is possible the someone would be paying this tax on a sale in which they were loosing money.  Would it have applied to foreclosure sales?  Excuse this rant on something that is currently irrelevant but I found the above comment annoying.

I posted a comment on this post yesterday but it looks like it wasn't approved.  Why are you not posting anonymous comments that have something to say anymore? I just don't feel like going through the effort of having ANOTHER log-in for yet another site. 

If you can't be bothered to register (which is fast and free) then I also can't be bothered to spend all day checking for new comments to approve. As you can see above, I do eventually approve them if they add something productive to the discussion. Anonymous commenters don't have any right to publish here, nor to be responded to in a timely manner.

I've voted straight democratic ticket in every election my entire life.

 this tax increase will lead to a DECREASE in revenue over time.

It'll be 25 cents more next year, and then the year after that.....and soon I will be going to Home Depot in Durham instead of Lowes.

I thought this tax was for education and business development....not sewer rates subsidies.....?

The short(er) story -- The Efland sewer system was put in place 25 years ago because the elementary school there (ie, county property) had a failing septic system.  They needed like 120 homes to make a viable system, so they got that signed up.  Then they forgot about it for 20 years.  In the interim, the costs to send the sewage to Hillsborough became outrageous and the county never increased the rate, meaning there was a huge subsidy.  The county never "completed" the system to be a large enough size to be fiscally viable.  Instead, to remove the subsidy, the county decided to increase the rates by 300% to be the highest in NC.  The Habitat homeowners there cannot afford that.  The county is now planning to connect this small system (plus some expansion in line with the original plan, which will open up more of that area for development -- this is one reason Tanger outlets is in Alamance instead of Orange) to Mebane's.  This is a good solution for everyone, and they would like to use some of this additional revenue (plus grants and an already-approved bond issue) to pay for the expense in making the connection to Mebane.  Again, I repeat:  This is not taxes for a sewer rate subsidy.  But it will keep unfair rates from being applied to some of our most vulnerable residents, while opening up good real estate in a transportation corridor to development.

Since it appears connecting to Mebane is a one-time expense, wouldn't it make more sense to issue bonds for this purpose?  Bonds are usually used to fund capital improvements.  A bond addresses the concerns about vagueness over what the County will do with the rest of the collected taxes beyond the cost of the sewer connection.

It's a modest tax increase and it's good that it exempts food & medicine. As for gasoline, we should be taxing it an additional one to ten cents or so and dedicating that revenue toward reducing transporation pollution and promoting alternative energy.We are tole that a portion of the proceeds will go toward economic development, but we don't really know what that means. Will it be geared toward sustainable economic development like utilizing our solid waste as a resource for manufacturing or creating an eco-industrial park? Or will it be the mindless type of growth favored by everyone from local Chamber mega-members Progress & Duke Energy to the Reagan-conservatives which will give us Cary-like development (or the beauty of Durham-Chapel Hill's 15-501 strip).And finally, I believe that every time a local government raises taxes it is enabling the profligate military expenditures that consume over half of our total tax money. We are like the family that eats Spam so the father can continue binge-drinking and cocaine use.

We cannot continue to ignore the maintenance needs of our older
schools and government buildings, so I will vote yes for this tax. I also support providing infrastructure in
the economic development zones. This is an investment. We cannot shift
our tax burden from homeowners unless we have viable options. This is
our chance.

Question, is the 1/4 cent sales tax only limited to capital projects or can it also be used for regular budgets needs for example partial funding of someone salary? Its not clear from what I have seen.  

The sales tax can be used for anything that the county is authorized to appropriate funds for, whether capital or operating.

Thank you for your reply. There was a guest column in the Chapel Hill News on Wednesday from the County Manager and he stated that these funds are earmarked for 5 years  to the respected areas stated earlier. He also talked about State educational shortfalls and library/EMS services facing county budget pressures. Which would suggest that this tax will be spent for capital and/or operating needs in the four areas it is earmarked for.Base on this info I will vote NO on this tax increase because the Commissioners are not limitimg themselves to spending these funds for capital needs ONLY. I feel like the Commissioners have misled us.

The truth is somewhere inbetween. The commissioners can adopt a policy that the money is earmarked for certain purposes for a certain time and that is a valid statement until a future board takes a contrary action. The commissioners have no power to make any sort of permanent committment.

gercohen is correct re: the $ would be part of general fund, however BOCC resolution dated September 2, 2010 makes the funding allocation shown below*. IMO, if the Commissioners do not follow this, I plan to hold them accountable at the polls in 2012 and every election thereafter. Terry Tyson is correct infrastructure in the Econ Dev Districts is an investment that will give the county viable options to the current status quo of miniscule options for reducing residential property tax burden. For more info from county see   Allan Rosen  * WHEREAS, the Board of Commissioners establishes a 5 year commitment to allocate Article 46 one-quarter cent (1/4¢) County sales and use tax proceeds as follows:

  • 42.5% of the funding will be allocated in an equitable manner between the County’s two school systems for the dedicated purpose of facility improvements at ‘older’ schools within all of Orange County and the procurement of technology.  Each school system will establish a list of prioritized needs for older schools within the County.  Funding provided by the passage of the referendum will be allocated to those prioritized projects.  Progress will be evaluated annually and adjustments made according to needs agreed upon by the School Boards and Board of County Commissioners;
  • 42.5% of the funding will be allocated to economic development efforts including funding infrastructure improvements needed to recruit new businesses and expand existing businesses; funding for business loans and grants to grow businesses in Orange County; targeted business recruitment, retention, and expansion efforts; and community branding and marketing;
  • 15% of the funding will be allocated equally to improve Library and Emergency Medical Services over a five-year period


At a meeting last night it was reported that over 12,000 early voters had cast their ballot and the hopes is to make it to 15,000 by the closing of early voting on Saturday. Orange County has just over 102,000 on the roll now.


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