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The Daily Tar Heel

County officials urge support of quarter-cent tax at Friends of Downtown meeting

Two county officials urged downtown businesses to support the quarter-cent sales tax increase at Thursday’s Friends of Downtown meeting.

County Commissioner Valerie Foushee said she is optimistic that the referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot will be passed because she has seen no organized opposition to it.

The sales tax would be split so 42.5 percent of the tax would go to the county’s two school systems in an equitable manner, 42.5 percent to economic development and the remaining 15 percent would be shared equally between emergency services and libraries.

“The general mantra is, ‘do more with less.’ We’re going to have to do less,” she said, if the tax is not passed. “In difficult times, all of us have to make difficult decisions. People who say they can’t pay anymore — I understand that. Tell me what [services] you want to take away.”

If implemented next April as intended, the tax is expected to bring in $575,000 for the fiscal year.

The portion that would go to economic development would provide loans for small businesses, which provide 80 percent of Orange County’s revenue, County Economic Development Director Brad Broadwell said.

“We cannot do anything for entrepreneurial services without some sort of capital attached,” he said.

Thirteen of North Carolina’s 100 counties have the same referendum on their ballots and 17 have already passed it.

Pat Evans, chairwoman of the Friends of Downtown, said downtown businesses will not take a stance as a whole on the sales tax increase.

“What we’d like to do is inform,” she said. “The action of a sales tax will affect the downtown, and we are an organization that focuses on the downtown.”

Foushee said residents should not be concerned that the tax is the same for all regardless of revenue level because she believes that all taxes are regressive.

“When I look at a quarter-cent sales tax on things that are not groceries or medicine, that seems to be a whole lot more equal,” she said. “It also means Orange County sustains our economy when they buy our goods.”

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