CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County residents voted down Tuesday a sales tax increase intended to provide additional funding to arts, parks, and other educational programs around Charlotte.

After the polls closed Tuesday, the county released election returns from early voting, which showed 54% of early voters against the 0.25% increase in sales tax.

The Charlotte Arts and Sciences Council President said it was obvious early on that the tax hike was in trouble. 

"When we saw the early voting results come in we were hopeful that when we saw some precincts come in we'd see stronger results," said R. Jeep Bryant.

By 10 p.m., advocates for the tax referendum conceded defeat after the gap grew to more than 10,000 votes.

If passed the sales tax would have jumped from its current 7.25% to 7.5%.

The Mecklenburg County government website said the proposed tax hike would have been divided between cultural and educational programs: 45% for arts and culture, 34% for county parks and greenways, 16% for education and 5% for arts and culture/parks for the towns.

Advocates estimate it would bring in $50 million a year.

Supporters spent about a million dollars to try and get the referendum passed.

Those who opposed the tax hike said too much money would go to teachers and the arts while taking away from other needs, such as affordable housing.  

If the measure had passed, consumers would have been charged an extra nickel for every $20 spent in the county.

A similar attempt to raise the sales tax in 2014 failed 61% to 39%

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