06/08/08 — Duplin not finished with its sales tax referendum

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Duplin not finished with its sales tax referendum

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 8, 2008 2:05 AM

KENANSVILLE -- Just one month after Duplin County voters turned back efforts to add a quarter-cent increase in the local sales tax, Duplin County commissioners this week instructed its Sales Tax Referendum Committee to continue its efforts.

Commissioner L.S. Guy of Faison, a committee member, said "defeatist" attitudes and a lack of support from commissioners and the Duplin County Board of Education played a role in the issue's failure.

The measure failed 5,910 votes to 4,096 votes in the May primary.

The tax had been expected to bring in about $800,000 annually -- all of which was to have gone to the county's public schools and James Sprunt Community College.

Some county officials have said that public concerns about leadership on the board of education played a part in the measure's defeat.

Commissioner Cary Turn-er of Mount Olive has told the News-Argus that some people in his district favored the tax, but did not support it because of those concerns.

"It (tax committee) was a very good group that did a lot of hard work and put forth a good-faith effort," Jennings Outlaw of Mount Olive, committee chairman and member of the Duplin County Board of Education, told commissioners. "We'd like this to go back on the ballot at some point. I don't know what to say about when."

He added, "The other question is do you want us to continue as a committee."

The board's response was unanimous approval of a motion by Commissioner Zettie Williams, seconded by Commissioner Reginald Wells, for the committee to continue.

"It is so important to get it back on the ballot," she said.

"Both boards have to have an interest in something like this for it to proceed," Guy said.

However, he said, "This committee cannot make these two boards come together."

"When we put it back on the ballot we need to make sure it is clear and try to pull all the communities together," Wells said.

Wells said commissioners and school board members need to "come together."

"We don't need some pseudo coming together, but some real dialogue," he said. "I think one thing I am hopeful about is that this group (tax committee ) can be a facilitator for this board as well as for the school board.

"The first thing we have got to is pull this board and the board of education together. Without a meeting of the minds and it is on ballot next May it will fail again."

Outlaw noted that Guy, who is not seeking re-election, will go of off the board in December.

He said commissioners would need one or more members to replace Guy.