Commissioners resolve 1/4 cent sales tax, if approved, to go to schools

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The Rutherford County Commissioners resolved at their February meeting to dedicate any funds generated by a 1/4 cent sales tax for use in meeting the critical needs facing Rutherford County Schools and Isothermal Community College.

The N.C. legislature in 2014 rewrote the lottery statues that provided the 40% guarantee of net lottery proceeds for school construction which had been in place ince the lottery’s inception in 2005. A former legislator had raised questions of trust with the county commissioners use of the funds.

The facilitiees Committee of the RC Board of Education completed a comprehensive survey of current facilities and identified the most urgent needs as Cliffside Elementary, RS Middle School and a Bus Garage/Maintenance Facility.

 

Rutherford County residents will once again have the opportunity to vote on a local sales and use tax increase at the rate of one-quarter percent. This would increase the county sales tax from 6 3/4 cents to 7 % and create a capital fund to meet county educational needs.

The Rutherford County School’s Facilities Committee  recommended a phased-in building plan over the next decade:

  1. Phase I five-year plan to replace R-S Middle School, Cliffside Elementary School and the bus garage/maintenance facility
  2. Phase II ten-year plan to replace East Rutherford and Chase High Schools.

The estimated costs for the identified school system capital outlay over a ten-year period is approximately $199 million. The quarter cent funds would be used for general capital outlay, furnishings, new facilities, technology, technology infrastructure and vehicle replacements. Also Isothermal Community College decades-old buildings will need upgrades to meet the fast changing technological challenges and to support the REaCH program.

RC Schools already is requesting $4.1 Million for making their expansion shovel ready. The state is looking at funding Tier Two counties like our own for shovel ready projects.

Charter Schools agreed at their conception that County governments are not permitted to provide any direct capital funding to charter schools. Funds to charter schools are allocated indirectly through the local school administrative unit per N.C.G.S. 115C-426. However, Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy was deeded in 1999 the former Tri-City High School for its use; that property is currently worth approximately $1.9M and TJCA has since done much to improve that property.

With Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy’s application for a USDA loan and facing an obstacle in the reversion clause contained in the Tri-High deed, the school and the commissioners found a working compromise since by law the County cannot give the building to the school by selling an undeveloped part of the land parcel to the TJCA- Community Education Fund board. This property is unencumbered and can be used as collateral for a loan.

The Rutherford County Finance Department and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners estimate, based on current sales tax figures, that the one-fourth of a penny sales and use tax would generate approximately $1,200,000 annually. Additionally, visitors to our area will also be contributing to the education fund with their purchases.

How does this compare to property taxes?

One penny in Rutherford County property tax raises close to $530,000 (excluding economic development incentives paid out). One-fourth of a penny in sales tax is projected to raise around $1,200,000 per year.

There are numerous items exempt from the sales tax including prescription medication, gasoline, certain agricultural supplies and motor vehicles. For a full listing, see North Carolina General Statute 105-164.13.

What is the voting procedure?

Details on the voting process can be found on the Board of Elections website. The form of the ballot question for the additional one-quarter cent sales tax is mandated by the NC General Statute 105-537(c). Please see below:

[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST

Local sales and use tax at the rate of one-quarter percent (0.25%) in addition to all other State and local sales and use taxes.

The voters will determine the next course of action.

“We are at a turning point here in the county. Our educational systems are top notch. Our RCS superintendent is rated #1 in the state, our local charter schools are receiving accolades, and there are choices in school in RC as a whole, ” said County Commissioner Chair Bryan King earlier.

The success of the county as a whole requires a community vision of continued education success for all.