Sales tax increase will help schools

Published 3:04 pm Saturday, August 22, 2020

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Despite getting off to a slow start to raise public awareness for the need of an additional 1% sales tax increase, voters will go to the polls in November to decide the issue.

The additional tax would be used to pay for school construction projects and has the potential to lessen the tax burden by bringing in an estimated $700,000 in additional revenue to the county.

According to County Administrator Dan Witt, the 1% tax would go away once the debt service is paid off or once the projects are completed.

If approved, the tax would be placed on beer, wine, cigarettes, and prepared foods.

“Medicine and food off the shelf would not be taxed,” Witt said.

During the Aug. 10 BOS meeting Supervisor Kay Pierantoni, who sits on a committee intended to help raise awareness for the sales tax need, addressed the issue, saying she felt efforts to bring this forward this year could have been severely hampered.

During her speech, Pierantoni said she had not received the needed support from county staff, including Witt.

“During this pandemic, I knew it would be an uphill battle to accomplish the work that was needed to raise public awareness, so hopefully, this would pass,” Pierantoni said. “I spoke to this at our June BOS meeting and how I would need the support of staff and all supervisors. Administrator Witt admitted he had not been involved at our committee meeting even though he was aware Halifax’s administrator was heavily involved in their efforts.  He stated he had remained apart from the committee’s efforts at the direction of a couple of supervisors.

“One, or even two, supervisors shouldn’t give direction to the administrator outside of public view and against what has been decided by a majority in the meeting.  I’m not trying to be disrespectful to anyone here, but all of us on this board and staff needs to know we are to be looking out for the citizens, and our actions are to be transparent.  We are accountable to the citizens.” 

Following the meeting, Witt did confirm that he was told he should not be the point person or face of the sales tax endeavor, but that he would provide staff support to the referendum committee. Witt did not divulge who told him such.

Charlotte County School Superintendent Robbie Mason said he was in favor of the tax increase and hoped citizens would understand the need when they go to the polls in just a few weeks.

“There is a desperate need for school renovations in Charlotte County,” Mason said. “A 1-cent on the dollar increase in the sales tax would provide the school board with guaranteed funds annually to repair and renovate areas of need within our schools, especially our older schools like RHHS. For that reason, I am very supportive of the sales tax referendum, and I hope that our citizens will be supportive, as well.”