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Election 2022: New Hanover County voters say 'No' to the transit tax

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Money raised from the 1/4-cent sales tax would have funded public transit, trails, and pedestrian infrastructure. Now, those projects may go unfunded, and Wave may need to make cuts in the coming years.

The 1/4-cent sales tax would have funded more bike and pedestrian trails, Wave transit, and made inroads on rail realignment — the region’s long-time goal to put the train tracks that cut through the city on the other side of the river.

But, the tax failed by a margin of 6%, or about 5,400 votes — a loss that could really harm Wave's bottom line.

Wave Transit Executive Director Marie Parker says the fallout could be significant when Wave hits a "fiscal cliff" in two years.

"Our $11-plus-million budget will go down to $7 million, which is a pretty substantial reduction in funds that we have available. This would mean either we would have to identify another revenue source to close that gap, or else we would have to reduce service and that would impact the community," she said.

The bond measure would have covered that gap and stabilized a transit system that has dealt with inconsistent funding for years. Now, Wave will have to look elsewhere for funding — and despite the county’s ample coffers, the leadership there has made it clear in the past that Wave is not a priority.

Following the defeat of the transportation bond, the county released a statement:

Public transportation connectivity projects like walking trails, sidewalks and bike paths will continue to be a priority for New Hanover County; and, just as they are now, they will be included in upcoming budgets as funding and budget priorities allow. The county also remains committed to Wave Transit through our regular funding through the budget, and the Wave Board will work with their staff to determine how best to move forward with additional grants or other opportunities to help prioritize some of the projects that were identified as priorities for the sales tax. Without the dedicated source of continuous revenue that the sales tax could bring, that work will take more time – but public transportation connectivity, accessibility and efficiency will continue to remain a priority for the county.  

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.