Guilford County voters in North Carolina to decide on sales tax increase and school bond measure on May 17

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is asking voters to approve a 0.25% local sales tax increase and a $1.7 billion school bond measure at the May 17 primary election.

One measure would authorize the county to issue $1.7 billion in bonds for constructing new schools, improving and expanding existing schools, and school equipment. The other measure asks voters to approve a 0.25% (one-quarter cent) sales tax increase to fund school construction and bond debt repayment. Sales and use taxes in Guilford County do not apply to gasoline or grocery items.

The Board of Commissioners also stated in the resolution that, should the quarter-cent tax increase be approved, the county would lower the county’s property tax rate to an amount equal to sales and use tax revenues (a minimum of 0.3 cents) when adopting the 2023 budget.

County Commissioners Chairman Melvin ‘Skip’ Alston said, “The proposed sales tax is expected to generate about $20 million in revenues annually. Although the recent revaluation raised property taxes for most property owners, this resolution would allow them to save money on their property tax bill if they support the one-quarter cent sales tax. Our goal is to soften the burden for the property owners. The one-quarter cent sales tax, which is paid by everyone regardless if they are renters or tourists, will help generate revenues to help to cover our $2 billion in school needs. This is one way the property owners can vote themselves a tax decrease …this school bond and quarter cent sales and use tax is about putting our children first, not just about buildings. The condition of our schools have a direct impact on our kids’ ability to learn.”

The Guilford County bond website stated, “A 2019 independent study funded jointly by the county’s board of commissioners and school board found that district schools were, in some cases, literally falling apart. The average GCS school was built more than a half-century ago and more than 50% of schools were rated as being in either poor or unsatisfactory condition. Guilford County Schools currently has more than $2 billion in facility needs, including more than $800 million in deferred maintenance. Across 12.5 million square feet of facilities – including 126 schools, 300 buildings, and nearly 3,000 acres of land – GCS historically has received less than $0.50 per square foot for maintenance and upkeep of those facilities each year from general operating funds.”

Bond proceeds were designed to fund:

  • over $363 million in critical safety and technology upgrades at all schools;
  • construction of three new schools;
  • rebuilding of 18 existing schools;
  • full renovation of 13 schools; and
  • repairs to schools with failing roofs, heat, air conditioning, and plumbing.

Voters in Guilford County approved a $300 million school bond measure in November 2020 by a vote of 69.74% in favor to 30.53% against. At the same election, voters rejected a quarter-cent sales and use tax increase by a vote of 33.07% in favor to 66.93% against.

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Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.