Orange County uses commercial to advertise new quarter-cent sales tax

The original version of this story does not clearly state the role of marketing company Sheer Associates, Inc. The company is providing material to educate voters, not to advocate for or against the tax. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for any confusion.

After county residents voted against a quarter-cent sales tax increase last year, county officials are turning to advertising to increase support for the re-proposed tax on this year’s ballot.

If approved in the Nov. 8 election, the measure could bring in an estimated revenue of $2.3 million. The tax increase last year failed by slightly more than 1,000 votes.

Revenue from the tax would be divided evenly between economic development and education.

Bernadette Pelissier, Board of County Commissioners chairwoman, said the board didn’t educate voters on the tax well enough last time, a problem they hope to fix with an information campaign budgeted at $50,000.

The county began work on a campaign in July to educate voters on the tax.

The campaign will feature digital and print advertising, including a public service announcement, which aired on YouTube Sept. 1. The announcement, created by Beery Media, was recently released and is now available on YouTube.

The county will be assisted and advised throughout the campaign by the marketing company Sheer Associates Inc.

Sheer Associates has created a print ad that will be unveiled at Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.

The board hopes that by releasing ads well before the November election date, they will get the word out in time.

Last year, people were unsure where the revenue created from the new tax increase would go, Pelissier said.

“I think the primary reason (the tax failed) is that we had too short a time period in order to educate our citizens about our quarter-cent sales tax,” Pelissier said.

The proposed tax will not effect goods such as prescription medication, gasoline, certain agricultural supplies and motor vehicles.

Commissioner Barry Jacobs said those in favor of the tax have been more concentrated in their support this year than last.

“(The last election) was a time of real political and economic uncertainty,” he said. “ We weren’t very well organized in our effort.”

This year, county officials said they have also emphasized that the tax will fund education, a move Jacobs said might garner more community support in the face of statewide budget cuts to education.

The Orange County Democratic Party of North Carolina is in favor of the increased sales tax, said Matt Hughes, first vice chairman.

“We see the tax as a way to restore funding to schools that has been lost due to cuts in the state legislature,” Hughes said.

Orange County Schools projects a $6.4 million shortfall for the 2011-12 school year, including more than $3.5 million in state funding cuts.

Randee Haven-O’Donnell, a Carrboro Alderwoman, said the key to economic development lies in maintaining schools.

“I think one of the most important thing we can do is make sure that we are taking care of our schools and laying the groundwork for our economic future.”

Normally, the November election would only occur in municipalities electing new officials, but with the tax increase on the ballot, all voting locations in the county will need to be opened.

Opening those locations would cost tax payers $85,000, said Robert Randall, chairman of the Orange County North Carolina Republican Party.

“We think that the county has enough revenue and they need to spend more efficiently,” he said.

Contact the City Editor
at city@dailytarheel.com.

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