Voters in Bladen County will once again have the opportunity to decide whether they want everyone — residents and visitors alike — who purchase consumer goods in the county to pay an additional one-quarter of a penny in sales tax to benefit Bladen County Schools’ efforts to refurbish and/or repair their 13 school facilities.
The referendum was defeated on the May 6 primary ballot by more than a 2-1 margin — 5,822 against, 2,276 for.
But the Bladen County Board of Commissioners voted last month to put the referendum back on the Nov. 4 ballot, primarily because the school board made a solid case of need for the approximately $500,000 per year the added sales tax would raise.
It was both a worthwhile and wise move by the commissioners.
You can read Staff Writer Erin Smith’s story on Page 1A today about why the commissioners put the referendum on the ballot for a second time and the needs the sales tax would help the school board overcome. What you won’t read, however — because few want to point fingers — is the reason the referendum failed in the first go-round.
But point fingers we will, and our collective fingers will point directly at the Bladen Improvement organization, which most understand is guided to a large degree by the misguided and blatant bullying of County Commissioner Delilah Blanks. That bullying was on display recently in a joint meeting between the commissioners and school board — a public meeting that the public failed to attend.
If they had, they would have witnessed a “Godfather” moment when Blanks told the room, “You will never get a sales tax passed as long as there isn’t a plan to build a new school for the little children in East Arcadia.”
While we can understand that county commissioners and school board members often look out for their own districts first, it’s also a fact that these people are elected to represent and do what’s best for the county as a whole. So to hijack a much-needed referendum that will help “the little children” across the county is nothing short of arrogant and short-sighted.
This referendum needs to pass. It’s easily the fairest way to apply a tax increase — and honestly, a good chunk of it will be paid by those who visit and pass through Bladen County.
While hardly expect Blanks and the Bladen Improvement group to understand the logic of passing the referendum, we hope the rest of the county’s voters will.
Get out the vote
By law, employees of the school district can’t get out in the community to promote the sales-tax referendum. That means they must rely on the voters to make informed decisions.
But such an important issue shouldn’t be left to a group of folks where a majority can be so easily swayed — especially when they are being led like cattle to the slaughter by an organization like the Bladen Improvement Association that has its own greedy agenda.
If there is a group or groups — churches, civic organizations or others — that cares about the future of our students and would be willing to take up the gauntlet for the school district and help promote the referendum, now is the time to organize and start.
We stand ready to assist in that effort.