The local chamber of commerce is urging voters to back a proposed quarter of a cent sales tax increase this November.
The Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors unanimously adopted a resolution last week to support the planned tax increase.
The chamber resolution praised the sales tax’s ability to “spread the responsibility for funding local government to the broadest possible taxpayer base, including travelers, visitors and non-residents.”
“As much as anything, the chamber board focused on the way in which the proposed sales tax would shift as much of our local tax burden as possible to persons who do not live in Scotland County,” Chamber Chairperson Becca Hughes said in a statement released after the vote. “The chamber board is pleased to lend its support to the local option sales tax as a way to move our community forward for all of our citizens, while minimizing the local impact as much as possible.”
The proposed tax is expected raise more than $600,000 a year for the county according to projections from the state.
Hughes told The Laurinburg Exchange on Monday that the resolution was approved following “good and passionate discussion.”
“We are all working together to try to ensure positive economic growth in the community and the county is the organization that can do more about infrastructure and help create an environment conducive to business growth and economic development,” Hughes said. “We wanted to show our support for the county commissioners and what they are trying to do.”
And while the county has yet to say where or how the money will be spent, Hughes said that it was the chamber’s “hope that some of it will be used for economic development.”
“Given Scotland County’s persistently high unemployment, the proposed sales tax can provide additional resources for necessary additional investment in economic development and improved employment opportunities for local citizens,” chamber officials said in the resolution.
Brenda Gilbert, chamber interim executive director, was also supportive.
“It’s the least intrusive way of getting this funding. Think that it is only a quarter (25-cents) on $100,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert also cited the tax’s exclusions as a reason for her support. Included among the items that would not be subject to the sales tax are most non-prepared food items, prescription drugs, gasoline, vehicle purchases or utilities payments.
According to Gilbert, support for the tax among board members was overwhelming.
“I did not hear a single dissension. Not one person felt that we should not (support the tax).”
Hughes said that supporting the tax represents a bit of a departure from past practices for the business group.
“The (local) chamber has, for the most part, stayed out of taking sides on political issues.”
Hughes said that the chamber’s decision to “take a stand” on the tax, at least in part, stems from recent “community stakeholder” meetings hosted by Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker.
“In this instance, we simply could not find any downside to the tax.”
The chamber has more than 300 members, with 21 serving on its board of directors.