Voters in Swain and Macon counties soundly defeated land-transfer tax ballot initiatives Tuesday, dashing hopes that the newly approved measures would provide a new revenue source.
In Swain County the vote was 1,458 against and 392 for the transfer tax, a 79 percent to 21 percent margin. Macon County had a similar result.
The land transfer tax would have allowed counties to increase the fee paid to the county on all real estate transactions by .04 percent, which would be in addition to the .02 percent already on the books. In Swain County the measure would have generated $800,000 per year, while in Macon County’s lucrative real estate market the new tax would have generated $2.5 million per year. A coalition of real estate professionals, builders and conservative anti-tax groups waged a statewide campaign against the tax.
Alan Page of Freedom Works, a Swain group opposed to the land transfer tax, said the vote did not surprise him.
“It shows that even though the counties put the issue on the ballot when they would have the lowest turnout possible, the voters’ voice was still heard,” said Page. “It shows that the citizens are soundly opposed to this issue that crossed party lines. It was truly a nonpartisan issue.”
In Macon County, Art DeWitt was the leader of the group Macon County Citizens Against the Transfer Tax. He said voters understood that the transfer tax was simply unfair.
“It pinpoints just a few of the people …. to bear all of the burden, and it’s not fair,” DeWitt said prior to Election Day.
Page said he hopes the vote sends a message to other counties thinking about putting the measure on the ballot.
“Swain was one of the counties we were kind of worried about. This is what we wanted to see to show county commissioners that citizens were against this taxation, and hopefully other counties won’t put it on the ballot next year,” said Page.
As of late on Nov. 6, it appeared the land transfer tax was going to be defeated in most of the counties where it was on the ballot.
Bonds fail in Macon
Macon County voters turned out to defeat a huge $64 million slate of bond packages Tuesday, sending each of the measures down on a day when voters were in no mood to approve tax hikes or new expenditures.
In all, voters defeated a $42.1 million school bond package, a $3 million community college bond referendum, a $3 million library bond referendum, a $6.5 million public buildings package, and a $9.4 million recreation facilities proposal.
Each of the five proposals was a separate vote.
The majority of voters who cast their ballots Tuesday’s voted against the both the bond proposals and the transfer tax.
Macon County residents Troy and Linda Causseaus said they voted against the transfer tax because it targets residents who want to sell their land.
“I feel that it’s penalizing you for owning a house and wanting to sell it,” Linda said.
Resident Jack Dillard has the same feeling about the tax.
“I voted against both,” he said. “I am just not in favor of the them.”
Now that voters have spoken, county commissioners will have to find an alternative way to build a school.
“The need for a new school is not going to go away,” Macon County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman said in a previous interview. “It will make it more challenging for county commissioners in terms of revenue sources.”