I have received lots of comments, both positive and negative, about the quarter-cent sales tax referendum for additional school funding in Cherokee County that will be on the June 7 special primary ballot. This sales tax will amount to 5 cents on a purchase of $20 and 25 cents on a purchase of $100.
I have stated before in these budget discussions that my two priorities are public safety and education. Public safety includes the Sheriff’s Office, EMS, fire-rescue, sanitation, etc. Education includes the Cherokee County education system, which encompasses public and charter schools, home-schooled children, and Tri-County Community College.
Providing a quality education for our children is an obligation that cannot be avoided, ignored, or eliminated. It is our responsibility as citizens of the county and, as a county commissioner, I have voted consistently to support the educational needs of our children.
The following are some uses for revenue generated from the sales tax referendum (see the School System Brochure for additional information):
- The revenue generated will be used to repair and maintain aging buildings and keep facilities up-to-date. Maintaining existing personnel needs and mending the deficit created by deep state cuts in funding and the loss of small schools funds is a top priority.
- All of the schools in Cherokee County were built decades ago and require constant upkeep. Students deserve access to the best educational resources. The financial burden, however, should not be shouldered only by property owners by an increase in property taxes. Instead non-residents can help with this burden by paying sales tax.
The taxpayers of Cherokee County will have to pay the salaries of 22 CORE teachers this coming year because of state reductions in school spending.
Answers to Specific Questions:
No one wants to pay more taxes, but at least a sales tax is also collected from visitors to the county who do not own property and, therefore, do not pay property taxes.
It is my understanding that the NC lottery revenues have not been distributed by the state to the counties as promised. We are working with our state representatives to remedy that situation.
My county budget sheet says that we are transferring $357,891 from state funds to our Charter School (The Learning Center) this year which is an increase of about $25,000 over last year. The county is required to transfer money to local charter schools in an amount specified by a state-mandated formula as part of the state grant to the county for education. I am personally in favor of continuing to fund The Learning Center and would like to assist home-schooled students as well. To my knowledge, no commissioner has “fought” charter school funding as the county commission does not have the authority to determine charter school funding.
Fundraisers in schools are the business of parents, teachers, students, and the school board. In many families, both parents have to work at least one job to make ends meet which decreases the time available for extracurricular school activities.
If you travel outside the county to purchase items because of the sales tax differential, please add an amount equal to your time, gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, food, and other travel related expenses. If you save $20 in sales tax but spend almost as much in travel costs, it really is not cost-effective.
The Casino is not the cause of nor the remedy to the school budget crisis. I will not comment on the positives or negatives of the Casino.