CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Are you willing to pay more taxes to help keep the arts alive in our area?
Mecklenburg County leaders were considering an idea to help fund the arts and sciences council with a new sales tax.
On Tuesday night, the county commission heard passionate testimony from several community members.
“The arts are not a luxury, they are a necessity," said one supporter.
County Commissioner Pat Cotham didn’t like the idea the first time when it was floated back in 2014, and she doesn’t like it now.
“The timing on it is bad. We just had major revaluation and people are gonna be getting bigger tax bills. Are we gonna kick 'em when they’re down?”
The arts and science council asked county commissioners to add the proposal to the November ballot. That way voters can decide if they’re okay with an increased quarter-cent sales tax which would generate about $50 million a year.
“Please give other communities the chance to be heard before you choose the choice that we get to make in the fall,” said Sam Spencer.
Arts and Science Council President Robert Bush said this was an essential service provided to our community.
He said donations were down and the organization, which works with 160 other organizations across the area, needed a steady revenue stream.
“Not only is it going to stabilize and grow the major institutions, it's gonna make sure everybody has access deep in neighborhoods and children at school."
Bush said the idea for a sales tax to help pay for the arts isn’t original. It’s already being done in Denver, Kansas City, St. Paul, and San Antonio.
However, Cotham said that still doesn’t make it the right answer.
“Taxpayers can’t be the default. No, no no, no.”
Chairman George Dunlap expressed his support and was hopeful voters will get to decide this time around.
While many seemed to support the referendum, others were concerned a tax increase would hurt lower-income people. No vote was taken.