JLF Research | Policy Reports

Taxers’ Choice in Cabarrus: If the sales-tax increase fails, county threatens to hike property taxes

May. 10th, 2011
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Key Facts

  • Like federal and state officials, Cabarrus County commissioners have saddled county taxpayers with a mountain of debt. Now they want taxpayers to bail them out by approving a quarter-cent sales tax increase on May 17. If the voters do not approve the tax increase, commissioners threaten to hit them with a 2.2-cent property tax increase.
  • About twenty percent of the county operations budget for fiscal year 2011 goes to pay the interest and principal for the accumulated $333 million debt. County commissioners approved $220 million of this amount without voter approval.
  • This debt service is 34 percent of K-12 education spending and 31 percent of spending on community colleges.
  • Over the last five school years, Cabarrus County Schools had the fourth-highest average per-pupil capital expenditure in the state ($1,774). It was $877 higher than the state average and nearly $1,000 higher than the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (see appendix).
  • The $42 million in debt service paid in FY 2011 is more than the county spends on human services, general government or public safety.
  • County commissioners have put taxpayers on the hook to pay half the debt for the North Carolina Research Campus, a dubious project that is largely dependent on diminishing state appropriations to the UNC system and community colleges.
  • With county unemployment above 11 percent, home sales down nearly 80 percent, and gas prices approaching $4 per gallon, county commissioners will pay this fiscal year a total of $1.3 million in taxpayer-funded gifts to such private firms as the Great Wolf Lodge, a racecar wind tunnel, and the Motor Racing Network.
  • Cabarrus County voters should think more than twice about rewarding this irresponsible spending and borrowing record with a sales-tax increase.

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