Scotland County residents will be asked to vote up or down on a quarter-penny sales tax following a unanimous vote by the county commissioners on Monday.
The referendum will likely be on the ballot this Nov. 6 and would give the board the authority to add one quarter of a cent to the current sales tax of 6.75 cents per dollar. Two cents of that sales tax currently goes to the county.
According to state estimates the extra tax would raise approximately $600,000 in revenue for the county.
The tax has been framed by the board as a more palatable alternative to other means of revenue sourcing.
“We’ll have to find some other source of revenue down the road (if the tax is not levied),” Commissioner Guy McCook said.
“It’s the fairest tax there is, I think,” said Board Chairman Bob Davis in defense of the sales tax. “Everybody would pay it – not just the property owners.”
Having encountered some locals confused about the tax, Commissioner Clarence McPhatter made it clear at the meeting that the tax was “one quarter of a cent.”
“Some people thought it was 25 cents,” McPhatter said, adding that it would take some selling by the board to get voters to support the sales tax option.
The board’s effort to educate residents on the tax will likely result in an informational flier being mailed, said Davis.
Another potential misconception that McCook sought to clear up at the meeting involved the nature of the referendum.
“(The referendum) is giving the citizens the option” and not actually initiating the tax, said McCook.
If voters approved the referendum item, the board would still need to determine whether the tax should be initiated.
“To be up front … it is our intention to levy it (if it is approved by voters),” said Commissioner John Alford, who said that it was “possible but not probable” that the board would refuse to exercise the sales tax option.
The tax would not apply to most non-prepared food items, prescription drugs, gasoline, vehicle purchases or utilities payments. The tax would add 25 cents to a purchase of $100 in taxable goods.
If approved in November and enacted by the board the earliest the tax could take effect would be April 1 of next year.
In 2007 the General Assembly granted counties the authority to allow voters to approve a quarter cent sales tax via referendum.
“The state gave us this option because they’d taken back some money,” Alford said.
Also during the meeting:
Davis reported to the applause of those in the meeing room FCC’s decision to expand its operations in Scotland County. While the announcement was formally made this morning at the county’s spec building, Davis took the opportunity “to let people know who might not have already heard the good news.”
“It is a real blessing to our community and we are thankful for it,” Davis said.
Commissioner Joyce McDow, who participated in the morning announcement, said that she “could have done cart wheels” after learning of FCC’s decision.
FCC will purchase and expand the county’s spec building, bringing 62 new jobs to the county.
-The board agreed to allow Maxton to collect a 10 cent fire tax on its citizens so that they may become part of Robeson County’s Queheel Fire District.
Maxton has been contracted with Queheel for the fire department’s services in the past.
“Queheel requested an increase in the amount Maxton funded them,” said Roylin Hammond, Scotland County EMS Director. Unable to pay the requested amount, Maxton asked that a tax to be levied so that the area within Maxton could officially join the Queheel district, rather than simply contracting them for their services.
“This will mean a 40 percent savings for Maxton residents on their homeowners insurance due to an improved fire rating,” Hammond said.
Residents of the Scotland Forest community as well as others in Maxton living in Scotland County will be served by both Laurinburg Fire Department and Queheel in the event of a structural fire.