By Diana Matthews
The boards of both local school systems and Southeastern Community College want voters to know how funds raised from the proposed sales tax would be put to use.
The Southeastern Community College Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution Oct. 9 in favor of the sales tax increase. The resolution said in part:
“Whereas, if passed, Southeastern Community College will provide an annual report to the citizens of Columbus County how the monies are spent for capital outlay needs within the system;
“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Board of Trustees of Southeastern Community College urges all registered voters of Columbus County, North Carolina to vote in favor of the Quarter-Penny Sales and Use Tax in the general election on Nov. 6, 2018.”
SCC President Tony Clarke said that the sales tax money will not take the place of funds already budgeted for facilities improvements at the community college but will supplement those funds, allowing greater improvements. He said four major areas where the funds will be immediately used are the welding program, improving library usage, updating science labs and expanding student services.
“We’re in a competitive environment in higher education,” Clarke said. Improving facilities, he said, will allow SCC to do a better job training workers in skills needed for business and industry. “It will help us contribute to economic development,” he said.
The community college will provide a report to the county each year detailing how the sales tax funds have been spent in pursuit of its stated goals.
“We will use the money for capital outlay — for buildings — only,” said Coleman Barbour, chairman of the Whiteville City Schools board. “We will take steps to let people see that we’re using the money appropriately, as we said we would and as the commissioners told us. We will not use the money for anything other than buildings.”
The Columbus County Board of Education passed a similar resolution Sept. 10, the same evening as the city school board.
County schools spokesman Kelly Jones said that, if the tax increase passes, “It means for the cost of 25 cents for every $100 spent, our school system will receive much-needed funds to make crucial repairs.
“We will give a detailed report at the end of each fiscal year describing the exact uses of the funds. This will be posted on our website no later than 30 days from the end of the fiscal year,” Jones said.
The transparency resolution was a proposal by the county commissioners.