Harnett will vote on sales tax increase for school construction

Nov. 03, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

Harnett County citizens will vote on a quarter-cent sales tax increase Tuesday which could put more of a strain on their wallets but which supporters say will provide much-needed funds for school construction in the rapidly growing county.

As of Friday, one half of one percent of the county’s registered voters had cast a ballot — 396 people out of about 68,600.

Harnett County Elections Director Claire Jones said Friday she expects to see the numbers pick up some, but not much, by the end of the election on Tuesday. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

“With municipal elections, it’s always a pretty low turnout,” she said. “I think we’ll see a little bit higher than usual just because there are so many groups this year getting people to go out for the tax increase. But it probably still won’t be very high.”

The main group going out and trying to get people to the polls is Building a Better Harnett — a pro-schools group supporting the tax increase and made up largely of people who live in the western part of the county, where schools are significantly overcrowded.

A similar sales tax increase has been defeated by Harnett County voters four times in recent years, although school construction supporter Maj. Jaysen Yochim said he thinks that it has a shot this year since this is the first time the tax increase has been specifically marketed as being for school construction. Most North Carolina counties have a sales tax rate of either 6.75 percent or 7 percent. Harnett County’s rate is 6.75 percent but would be raised to 7 percent if the measure passes.

Yochim said that support from the county commissioners and school board members have undoubtedly helped, although he said voter turnout was of concern. Yochim and others have been trying to drum up volunteers to campaign at the polls to sway undecided voters, he said.

“I think people aren’t going to go to the polls to vote ‘No’ because it’s hard to be passionate about voting no,” Yochim said. “... I think there’s a lot more people who are passionate about doing what we can to help the schools out.”

In addition to the tax increase, which any registered Harnett County voter can vote on, residents of Erwin, Coats, Angier and Lillington can vote for their elected officials, and Grove Township residents can vote if they want to permit the sale of beer and wine.