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With infrastructure costs spiraling and no ceiling in sight, the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners made an impassioned plea at its April 21 meeting for approval of the 1/4-cent sales tax referendum that will go before the voters on May 6.
The county needs millions of dollar to pay for schools and school supplies, libraries and computers and a health department building, not to mention BRAC — the Army’s Base Closure and Realignment that will swell the county’s population by estimates of more than 25,000 over the next five years.
Dr. Breeden Blackwell, commissioner of the board, who says the tax increase would raise about $8 million for the county in its first full year of implementation, said one of the best things about the tax increase is that “everybody pays.”{mosimage}
“It is probably the fairest tax we have because everybody pays for it,” said Blackwell. “No matter where you live, if you shop in this community you help pay the freight.”
The 1/4-cent tax increase would amount to about a penny on a $4 dollar purchase, or 25 cents on a $100 purchase. The tax would not be applied to food purchased at a grocery store.
Dr. Jeanette Council, vice chairman of the board, extrapolated the individual cost to each taxpayer and compared it to the cost of gasoline.
“We pay for many services for our citizens and the cost is not going down,” said Council. “Things are not getting any cheaper. The overall cost of the sales tax to you for a year will probably be less than the cost for a tank of gas that you use right now.”
A previous attempt at approving a 1/4-cent sales tax was defeated last November by about 700 votes. The commissioners have tried to sweeten the pot this time around by passing a binding resolution that would lower the property tax rate by 2 cents, if the sales tax referendum is passed. Cumberland County’s property tax is the ninth highest in the state.
Commissioner Ed Melvin believes the proposed tax will take some of the burden off of property owners.
“I do support the sales tax referendum,” said Melvin. “I’m a firm believer that 100 percent of the folks in Fayetteville and Cumberland County will help pay for this instead of the 30 percent, roughly, that’s property owners.”
May 6 also marks the date of the Cumberland County District 2 commissioner’s primary. Commissioner John Henley, who is not seeking reelection, says the key to getting the sales tax passed is to appeal to non-property owners.
“I think it’s a no-brainer if you own property,” said Henley. “I think the case needs to be made to those people who aren’t property owners on why they should vote themselves an extra tax.
“I think in my mind that it is fair,” said Henley. “I think that it allows the commissioners to continue to invest in the education of our kids and to protect our children through social services and enhanced public-health issues, to provide more libraries and computers, to help fund the arts to help make this a better county to live in.”
Blackwell says the voter registration for the referendum is the largest it has ever been.

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