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In the Nov. 2 elections, residents of Orange County will have the chance to vote on a sales tax increase — but some residents are concerned about how the money will be spent.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to place a referendum on the election ballot concerning the levy of a one-quarter cent county sales-and-use tax.

Taxes on services and purchases would increase, while taxes on food items would not.

The one-quarter cent county sales-and-use tax was created during the N.C. General Assembly’s 2007 legislative session.

Its goal is to expand county revenue options and lessen the reliance on property tax.

Fifteen out of 100 N.C. counties have approved the tax increase.

The board had to make a decision on or before Aug. 6 so the referendum could appear on the November ballot.

“I do think it is something that we should put on the ballot so voters can decide,” Commissioner Alice Gordon said.

She said there should be neutral educational campaigning in the fall before the public votes on the referendum.

But residents at Tuesday’s meeting questioned how the revenue gained from the tax increase would be used.

Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said some of the funds should be devoted to economic development.

He said he thinks residents will be supportive with the promise of improving the local economy.

“I would like to see the money to be used, if it is passed, towards economic development and libraries,” said Commissioner Mike Nelson.

But Commissioner Pam Hemminger said they should not decide how the money is to be used until they hear input from different groups.

Chairwoman Valerie Foushee agreed with Hemminger and said she would like to hear more from the public about how the money would be used should it be passed.

The board also passed a draft resolution in support of UNC’s co-generation facility’s decreased use of coal as an energy source.

The facility, located on Cameron Avenue, provides power to 175 campus buildings and is responsible for 58 percent of the university’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution aims to move UNC away from the use of coal and toward alternative energy sources by the year 2020.

The 2010-11 budget process for Orange County was also completed Tuesday night.

A smattering of claps and sighs of relief came after the Commissioners voted unanimously in approval of the county budget.

“There were a lot of cuts in there that hurt,” Commissioner Mike Nelson said about the final budget.

Many of the commissioners agreed with one another that this year’s budget process was clearer than it had been in previous years. 

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