Sales tax increase on ballot

The Orange County Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday to place a referendum for a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot.

The referendum will allow county residents to vote “yes” or “no” on the tax increase, which was narrowly rejected by voters when the county tried the measure in November 2010.

The referendum will appear on the municipal elections ballot later this year rather than the primary elections ballot in 2012 — a plan that caused concern among some residents because voter turnout could be low for the rural residents that opposed the tax in the fall.

“I personally would not have confidence in the integrity of the process if it were done during the municipal elections,” said Chapel Hill resident Will Raymond. “Putting this on municipal elections is a bad idea.”

But commissioners said tax revenue is needed as soon as possible.

“The further we put it off, the longer it takes us to realize the revenues,” said commissioner Valerie Foushee.

Commissioner Barry Jacobs said revenue from the tax increase will go primarily to education and economic development.

He said the sales tax increase, if approved by voters, will provide commissioners with an alternative to raising property taxes.

But Bob Randall, Orange County Republican Party chairman, said taxes are already excessive.

“Just a few short months ago, the majority of voters voted no,” he said. “Why do we need to ask for another vote for this, and why now?”

In other business, commissioners delayed making a decision on extending the life of the Orange County Landfill until they could outline ways to address poor health and living conditions for the residents in its’ neighborhood.

“I am not going to vote for this until we talk about enhancing the quality of life for the people in the Rogers Road community,” Foushee said.

Commissioners considered three options to extend the life of the landfill to as late as 2018. The landfill, which has been in the historically black and low-income neighborhood since it opened in 1972, is scheduled to fill in 2012.

About 10 UNC students, led by junior Allison Norman, protested extending the life of the landfill at the meeting.

“This is an issue of racism, and it’s wrong,” Norman said in an interview.

Commissioners also voted to approve the Unified Development Ordinance, which is meant to consolidate county zoning ordinances.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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