Scotland County voters have said no to a proposal to raise the local sales tax by 1/4 of a cent.
Voters were overwhelmingly against the idea — 63.56 percent — with 7,812 voting against and 4,478 in favor, according to unofficial returns by the Scotland County Board of Elections.
Had the vote passed, the local sales tax would likely have increased from 6.75 to 7 percent in April 2013.
The Scotland County Board of Commissioners added the referendum to the ballot in Tuesday’s general election, proposing a quarter-cent increase in the local sales and use tax.
“I’m disappointed that it went the way it did, but historically when you put it out on a referendum during a general election, it never passes,” Bob Davis, chairman of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners, said after Tuesday’s vote.
The increase was expected to raise $600,000 for the county annually, which would have been allocated to capital improvement projects, officials said.
Former commissioner Joyce McDow was one of the proposal’s most ardent supporters.
“To me the people have spoken and I think we did an excellent job informing people about the tax,” said McDow. “Sometimes no matter how hard you try you don’t reach the ones you need to reach.”
McDow was optimistic that, should the economy improve, a similar measure may be better received in the future.
“It is a recession, but it was something that as a board we needed to do,” she said. “Maybe at another time when things are better it will possibly pass. In a referendum you just have to accept the will of the people - tax is just a bad word right now.”
Supporters of the increase came from both sides of the political aisle, as a recent petition sponsored by the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce in support of the increase was signed by some 35 local residents, including members of the Scotland County Democratic Women and Bill Owens, chairman of the Scotland County Republican Party.