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Stanly County votes in sales tax

Stanly County residents narrowly approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase on Tuesday evening.

The vote was split nearly 50-50 from early votes before any precinct results were reported. By 10 p.m., when 18 out of 23 precincts had reported, it was still close: 51.27 percent of voters supported it while 48.73 percent were against.

When all precincts had reported at about 11 p.m., the increase had won with 50.85 percent of the vote.

The Stanly County Board of Education, county commissioners and multiple municipal boards within the county voiced support for the increase ahead of the election. The school system published a list of safety and security enhancements it plans to accomplish using the $1.5 million it anticipates receiving in additional annual revenue.

A sales tax increase has been on the ballot several times before and failed each time.

“Last night’s results not only excited me but humbled me at the same time,” Superintendent Jeff James said via email Wednesday morning.

“This is simply a historic and life-changing event for our most precious resource, our students. This has been attempted and failed four times before for many reasons,” James added. “We wanted to make sure the board, commissioners and our school system was completely transparent. We are and will continue to be, it takes all of us to have a great school system. We are trying hard to overcome issues of trust form events in the past. Last night a majority of the voters  were able to look beyond the past to the future and give a vote of confidence in our current boards and administration.”

The system plans to upgrade the elementary schools first, then look at the needs of the middle and high schools.

“The school system would work to improve security and safety at all campuses beginning with our elementary schools,” Stanly County Schools wrote on its website in a post about the tax increase. “Camera systems, additional access door security, fencing to prevent open access to campuses, and additional playground upgrades in both equipment and fencing are a few items we will upgrade in our elementary schools pending the sales tax passes. In addition, interior vestibules would be added where feasible to prevent access to the building without going through the office.”

The elementary schools would also receive an Ident-a-kid system which would note visitor information, print a label for them, and allow for visitor driver’s licenses to be scanned to make sure they are allowed on campus. Registered sex offenders or those banned by Stanly County schools would be identified through that process.

Staff and volunteers could quickly check in by scanning badges, while students could also be marked as late or released early, with custom data entries available. A car rider identification system, cameras, fencing and new playground equipment to replace broken pieces are also included in the plan.

“While the tax will take several months to go through the process to begin, our work starts today,” James said. “We will begin acquiring bids and where at all possible select local vendors, ensuring these dollars stay in our community and help local businesses as much as possible.

“For a conservative community, I knew any phrase that contained ‘tax’ would be an uphill battle to accomplish,” James added. “We simply need to prove to those who have doubts we are investing in the most precious resource our community has, our kids. The unified effort from both boards and members along with the great community support made for the epic event that occurred last night. I thank everyone for putting students and their safety first.”

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.