Iredell County commissioners discussed a possible sales tax increase during the board’s two-day winter planning retreat.

Commissioners held their annual retreat in the Cooperative Extension conference room on Friday and Saturday. The retreat’s primary aim is setting goals and providing direction for the county for the upcoming year.

On Friday, the board started early discussions about putting a sales tax increase vote on the primary ballot in 2022.

Chairman James Mallory explained that increasing the sales tax by a little would help create a new revenue stream that would address budget gaps for the school system and county.

Mallory said the burden doesn’t need to fall solely on homeowners.

“I think the people of this county, particularly property owners, have borne that burden almost exclusively for years. We need to look at another option,” he said.

The board also discussed what projects it would like to see funded through a sales tax hike.

The new revenue stream would likely fund school resource officers and capital projects for the school systems.

Additionally, the county would use the revenue as a way to fund recreational and other improvements in the county, which they believe will benefit all citizens.

One of the board’s goals is to enhance existing parks and recreational opportunities for citizens of all ages.

The board approved a master plan last year for the Parks and Recreation Department after conducting several public input meetings and surveys to find out what the community is interested in seeing.

Additionally, many of the county parks are in need of upgrades, and parks officials also hope to improve the youth sports fields and complexes.

“Are we a small county or are we a larger county who needs an upper game? All of those are dependent upon an additional revenue stream,” Mallory said.

The board is also hoping to avoid a repeat performance of the one-quarter cents sales tax vote in 2018, which the voters rejected.

“So, getting that (a sales tax increase) approved would require interested parties who would be beneficiaries to put their shoulder to the wheel, advocate aggressively and be able to justify why we need additional funding to achieve those results,” Mallory said.

Commissioner Scottie Brown expressed support for the sales tax proposal.

“Our sales tax is probably one of the lowest. We’re not asking the people of our county to pay for this but we are asking the people who are coming in our county to do this,” Brown said, mentioning people that travel into the county and spend money in Iredell.

Commissioner Gene Houpe agreed.

“A sales tax would be a fair tax, and everybody would have skin in the game,” Houpe said.

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