Quarter-cent sales tax important to county’s boon

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SEVEN SPRINGS – The current proposed one-quarter of a cent sales and use tax for Wayne County promises to pay dividends within the near future.

Wayne County Public Schools administrators and county government officials hope the referendum passes on the March 3 Primary Election ballot.

Two years ago, a tax referendum appeared on the ballot and failed miserably. The new tax proposal has projects earmarked for funding and Dr. Michael Dunsmore, superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools, hopes it passes overwhelmingly.

“Schools don’t generate money,” Dunsmore said. “I can’t go out and levy any type of taxes. We either get it from the feds, primary special education money or Title I for our lower-income and poverty kids, state and local.”

Based on current sales tax figures, the Wayne County Finance Department estimates that the sales and use tax would generate approximately $2.6 million annually. Dunsmore said the money allows the county to secure a 20-year bond that carries a $32 million price tag to fund 40 approved school projects.

There are eight schools in the county between 80 and 100 years old, including Fremont, Rosewood Middle, Mount Olive Middle and Goldsboro High School. The national average for a school’s longevity is 50 years.

There are empty classrooms at Rosewood Middle due to the backside of the building sinking into the ground. Dunsmore said there is $19.1 million earmarked by the county to construct a new RMS, but the General Assembly has yet to approve the state budget.

If the county sales tax passes, Dunsmore said he is ready to roll out construction crews on March 4. All 27 schools will have needs addressed – building replacements, classroom additions, renovations or campus updates and safety and security issues.

A new state-of-the-art Fremont Elementary will cost $18 million – the most expensive project in Phase I. Land studies have been conducted and Dunsmore said no issues have arisen at this point.

“The quarter-cent sales tax, to me, is the fairest way for everybody to pay their part,” said Ven Faulk, who is up for reelection on the Wayne County Board of Education.

“Not only are our kids the big thing we’re concerned about, but our kids are the future of Wayne County. We’ve got to have the facilities for the kids to make them the future citizens. We’re losing good people in Wayne County because our facilities are not up to date. The money is going to come from somewhere, we just have to decide where.”

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