Final Push For and Against Mecklenburg County Quarter-Cent Sales Tax Increase

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Those for and against a new quarter-cent sales tax are making their final arguments ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The money would go to support arts, parks, and schools in Mecklenburg County.

Most of the money would go to the Arts and Science Council. But there are questions about how that money would be spent and if it’s the right priority.

“We just raised property taxes. We just raised service fees. We are hitting folks time after time,” says Pastor Ray McKinnon, with South Tryon Community United Methodist Church.

McKinnon is an unlikely ally in the fight against the tax. The self-described progressive has teamed up with Republicans like Matthew Ridenhour in a bi-partisan effort to defeat the measure.

The sales tax would generate an estimated $50 million a year. $24.5 million would go to the Arts and Science Council. $15 million to parks and greenways. $8 million for education and teacher supplements. And $2.5 million for arts and parks in towns surrounding Charlotte.

McKinnon says in Brookhill Village, where he preaches, people say things like transportation and housing should come first.

“This is the last quarter cent that we can levy. And that leads me to ask the question, is this our top priority? And I’m not convinced that it is,” McKinnon says.

Meantime in Myers Park, the stage is set for a student production at the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. Executive director Chip Decker says the tax is a possible game changer.

“The city could really be propelled forward and end up being a destination city for arts and culture and parks,” Decker says.

Decker argues it’s artists who bring important social issues to the forefront and inspire people to take action.

“It’s theater that talks about homelessness that makes people aware about that. It’s visual art that puts it on the canvas for someone to recognize that it’s there,” he says.

Opponents of the tax also wonder if the money could be better used on something like the CATS Silver Line. That’s a possible light rail line running from Matthews to Belmont.

Charlotte City Council recently delayed a vote on that. They want to wait and see the outcome of Tuesday’s referendum.