On May 8, we, the residents of Gaston County will have the opportunity to cast our ballot for not only our primary races, but for two very important referendums. The first being to raise the Gaston County sales tax by one-quarter cent and the second is a $250 million bond package for Gaston County schools.
We in the Gaston Tea Party have for months been researching and questioning our local leaders and everyday citizens about these two referendums. Many were unaware that the bond package is part one of three bond packages that will total $650 million over the next 30 years. The bonds are meant to pay for the capital needs of Gaston County schools, such as new HVAC, roofs, etc. Many agree that our schools are in a state of disrepair and something must be done.
While the Gaston Tea Party has always supported our teachers, schools, and our residents' right to a public education, we can only conditionally support the bond package before us. The condition being that at the April 16 meeting of the Gaston County school board the school board directed that a time table for the projects released at their March meeting be created and released before the May 8 vote. Also at its April 16 meeting the school board directed that if the school bond is approved that whenever bond money is spent that it be placed on an online section of the school board website. Listing the project the money is for, the amount spent, and to whom the money is paid. If both of those conditions are met by the above stated time frames the Gaston Tea Party recommended passage of the bond package, however, if neither of these conditions are met we recommend voting against the bond package.
In regards to the one-quarter cent sales tax increase that is on the ballot. As many are aware the TEA party stands for Taxed Enough Already. While we do believe that we are Taxed Enough Already we are also reasonable and understand that we must compromise to create solutions. For if the sales tax increase fails and the bond package passes, the county commissioners will not release the bonds, which will affect our schools and if they do release the bonds it will hit our property taxes harder than the sales tax.
So in hopes of a fair and reasonable compromise, we in the Gaston Tea Party conditionally support the one-quarter cent sales tax increase if the following is done by the Gaston County Commission at either the April 10 or 24 meeting. That two memorandums of understanding be put forward and agreed to. The first stating that any and all money raised by the sales tax increase be used for only paying the bond package debt and will be used for no other reason as long as the increase is on effect. The second memorandum stating that in the year 2028 that a measure be placed on the ballot asking the residents if we will approve the continued support of the sales tax increase or if we want it repealed. This is due to only two ways that the increase may be repealed one by a local bill in the General Assembly in Raleigh or by a majority vote of the citizens of Gaston County.
So to recap, in ending the Gaston County Tea Party conditionally supports both the School Bond Package and one-quarter cent sales tax increase if the above mentioned conditions are met by our Gaston County school board and Gaston County Commission. Our conditions are fair, reasonable, and easily agreeable. Only by these conditions will the Gaston Tea Party support these ballot referendums.
Daniel Ware is chairman of the Gaston County Tea Party.