Policy Report

Boone-Doggle: Watauga County’s proposed $1.9 million tax increase

posted on in City & County Government, Education (PreK-12), Law & Regulation, Spending & Taxes
Featured Image

Key points:

• Watauga County commissioners want voters to approve a $1.9 million sales tax increase to build new recreational facilities.  If past is prologue, this new money will not be spent wisely.

• Watauga County commissioners approved the most expensive high school ever built in the state, without a vote of taxpayers.

• At $79.5 million, this high school cost almost $17 million more than a similar school just built in Wake County, which is an amount equal to nine years’ worth of revenue from the proposed sales tax. In other words, if the commissioners had been more frugal with taxpayer funds, the county could have met its recreational needs for nine years without needing a sales tax increase.

• Excessive spending on the new high school alone caused county commissioners to miss the 2006 schools facilities needs projection by $20 million, leaving other new school and renovation needs unmet.

• Watauga commissioners budgeted $7.9 million to pay that and other debt in fiscal year (FY) 2011, up from $2.9 million in FY 2006.

• Now the county commissioners are asking voters to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase, which would raise taxes by $1.9 million — the equivalent of a property tax increase of 2.2 cents per $100 in assessed valuation.

• Although commissioners promise to use the estimated $1.9 million in new tax revenue to pay for new recreational facilities, their promise is not legally binding. They could use the money for any legal purpose, including paying debt service on the new high school.

• Given the experience with the high school, should taxpayers now believe that commissioners would do a better job building new recreational facilities?

• The chairman of the commission claims that over half of the new sales tax revenue would come from visitors. Even if this assertion were true, county residents would still pay the equivalent of a one-cent property tax hike.

• County commissioners have called the election for August 31, a date that is likely to suppress voter turnout. Robeson County commissioners used the same political trick with its August 3 sales tax vote, which saw a turnout of just 4.3 percent of registered voters. Only 2.9 percent of registered voters approved that tax increase.

Boone-Doggle: Watauga County’s proposed $1.9 million tax increase

Donate Today

About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.