Bladen County voters, for the third time in recent years, will be asked to decide the fate of a quarter-cent sales tax referendum that will appear on the March 15 ballot.
But this referendum takes on a different tact than the previous two.
Instead of offering the potential revenue of a quarter-cent sales tax to the coffers of Bladen County Schools — a referendum that was soundly defeated — passage of this referendum would benefit property owners in Bladen County as a reduction in property taxes.
Opponents to the referendum, which include County Commissioners Delilah Blanks and Michael Cogdell, point to the fact that the voters have already voted against a sales-tax referendum.
But proponents of the referendum, such as Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson, say voters nixed the referendums because they were set up to benefit education only.
“The voters have spoken and said they don’t want a sales tax going to education,” Peterson has previously said. “This time, we can finally give some relief to property owners with a reduction in their taxes.”
Opponents are firing back that Bladen County’s property owners represent only about 31 percent of the county’s population, so the relief would benefit a small minority of the county. They also claim county residents aren’t interested in any new tax.
“We’ve tried this already … twice,” Cogdell said recently. “I don’t see what we can’t try to benefit more than just one area — like education, EMS and property tax.”
Peterson responded by saying that watering down the sales tax by spreading it across more than one entity would defeat the purpose of the referendum.
“We can’t spread it thinly over several areas and do any real good,” he said.
If voters to pass the sales-tax referendum, it has been estimated to generate about $460,000.
Other quarter-cent sales tax facts include:
— It would add one cent to every $4 purchase.
— The sales tax would be paid for by residents as well as visitors and tourists passing through the county who make purchases — dramatically lessening the burden on property owners, businesses and elderly homeowners on fixed incomes.
— It would drop the county property tax by 2 cents per $100 of valuation.
— Bladen County is one of only seven of North Carolina’s 100 counties that does not generate revenue from an extra sales or occupancy tax.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.