Carteret County looks at sales tax hike

Money changes hands in this News-Times stock photo. The Carteret County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of a local sales tax referendum to be included on the November ballot.  (Jackie Starkey photo)

BEAUFORT — Though the measure has already failed twice in recent years, the county is moving forward with introducing a local sales tax referendum on the November ballot.

The Carteret County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of the referendum Monday during its regular monthly meeting at the courthouse complex. The board did not establish the exact wording of the question to appear on the November ballot, but its action directed staff to finalize the details for board review before the Wednesday, Aug. 5 deadline to submit a referendum to the Carteret County Board of Elections.

If the referendum passes in November, the local sales tax rate would be raised by a quarter of a percent, from 6.75% to 7%. The state’s base sales tax rate is 4.75% and the current local rate adds an additional 2%.

County Manager Tommy Burns noted the tax would generate an estimated $3.6 million annually, and the board discussed potential uses for the additional revenue. The board was in favor of using the tax for two main purposes: waterway management and to fund capital needs or debt service for Carteret County Public Schools.

This is not the first time the county has attempted to the raise the local sales tax in recent years. A similar referendum appeared on the ballot in the November 2016 and November 2014 general elections, but it failed both times.

According to state elections data, about 68% of residents voted against the measure in 2014. More voters were amenable to the idea in 2016, but it still did not pass, with about 57% against the referendum.

In both elections, the county spent funds on materials informing residents of the ballot question. However, the county cannot directly campaign for the initiative, so in 2016 a private group pushed for the measure.    

On Monday, the board of commissioners discussed a possible split of the revenue that would generated by the additional tax, whether it be 50/50 or some other division. Commissioner Robin Comer recommended putting a $5 million cap on the waterway management fund, but other commissioners disagreed.

In years past, the county proposed the sales tax be used exclusively for waterway management, including dredging projects.

Finance Director Dee Meshaw said about 50% of sales tax revenues are raised by non-Carteret County residents, which some board members said is a benefit of the potential tax.

“I’ve never heard an argument against it, the sales tax is a pretty fair tax because everyone pays it,” Commissioner Robin Comer said. “In Carteret County, because of the tourism flow and the second (homeowners) here, we’re fortunate enough that probably somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of it comes from outside the county, the folks inside the county aren’t paying it.”


Contact Elise Clouser at; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(6) comments

Core Sounder

surely someone in authority in this County can come up with a way to tax the tourist or outsider and give us poor locals some relief for a change. Toll booths on the bridges that go to the beach is an idea and locals can scoot right on thru as long as they have a sticker on their wind shield or bumper. A few dollars extra for each ferry ticket sold that does not apply to locals. Should n't be that hard to come up with a way to raise taxes since they seem to be doing so every year it seems, only raise it for outsiders this time.


sorry, toll booths wouldn't work on any of the bridges as that would create a worse traffic jam than was experienced over the last two weekends. I loved in Florida with drive-thru toll booths, but that traffic lanes were 4 to 6 lanes each way at a minimum.


Hopefully the measure will fail again.


Property tax increase. Sales tax increase. $45 million School Bond is next, and then how to pay for the new school in the western side after that. More sand for the beach. Nothing mentioned of budget restraints or reductions.


What is the source of 50% of sales tax being paid by non residents? Locals spend here all year. We buy clothes, food, cars, appliances and use services that are now taxed like automotive repairs. I do not see how tourists match sales tax when they are not shopping here year round. Maybe County finance can offer some support to the 50% claim otherwise it looks like smoke.


Never a discussion to cut spending! Governments at all levels should be reducing their budgets or scrapping a pet project. Belt-tighten has been forced on the tax payers due to this crisis. No income; we will be spending less. Reduced tourists, due to social distancing and restaurant capacity and bars CLOSED = Less money coming in! Figures don't factor in phase 2 lasting five weeks or more. Add a property tax to this for residents! What are you people thinking? The economic principle of opportunity cost comes to mind. You only have so much budget, so you only have opportunity for project X, project Y will have to wait. Your tax paying families (many of whom are now unemployed) have to make these choices everyday on necessities.

Welcome to the discussion.

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