Op-Ed: Sales Tax Vote

  • Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Editor’s Note:
The 1% sales tax is perhaps the single most controversial local choice facing voters in the upcoming election. While there have been many letters and articles on the subject we thought it would be worthwhile to give each side an opportunity to outline their positions side by side for voters.
Here, we present Op Ed pieces from proponents and opponents of the sales tax referendum question.

Pennies for Progress

On November 6th Georgetown voters will have the opportunity to express their vision of the county's future when they vote on Issue 2, otherwise known as the Sales Tax Amendment.

If it passes, the new one penny sales tax will fund twenty one capital projects that have been sought by county residents and county leaders for years, but for which money has not been available. Now is our chance to build them with an additional penny sales tax on non-essential purchases.    Opponents of the sales tax have only emphasized the negative issues, and while none of us like additional taxes, these capital projects have broad public support and widespread benefit.

“Pennies for Progress” is not just a slogan; it's a description of our opportunity when we vote.

The Georgetown Port is a vital factor in the economic health of the county and passage of this amendment will guarantee much needed improvements for the port, creating jobs, and generating an estimated $30 million annual economic impact.  Likewise, the Murrells Inlet harbor is an important recreational and commercial waterway. Revenue from the penny sales tax will be used to construct a new dredging spoils area to protect that valuable economic asset.

Two major road projects in Georgetown and Pawleys Island will improve public safety and alleviate congestion and drainage issues … and 31 dirt road paving projects will be completed across the county. On a broader scale, ten new fire substations will be placed around the county and a new fire station built at Big Dam to help reduce insurance costs for many rural homeowners.

These are just some of the projects that will make the county a better place to live.

Quality of life is an important factor when retirees and seasonal visitors consider coming to Georgetown County and a number of projects have been included to help us maintain our appeal. It's projected that about 30% of the tax revenue will come from visitors who use county streets, utilities and public services such as fire and law enforcement. Our visitors will use and appreciate the new library, tennis courts and additional biking trails on Waccamaw Neck and they will also help pay for the new amenities they enjoy.

Voters will be asked to choose between a brighter economic future for Georgetown County … or to maintain the status quo.

We urge voters to vote yes for the penny and vote for the future.

Pennies for Progress Committee members include: Bill Crowther, Ted Hiley, Jean Cross, Brian Tucker, Will Howard, Jenna Jordan, Kim Fox, Sean Flynn, and Kevin Barnes.

Stop the Sales Tax

With many families struggling in this sluggish economy, this is not the time for a $40 million tax increase.

We all support improving quality of life and believe that we need to make responsible investments in county infrastructure. That's why the county has a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for making public improvements over time as money is available. A balanced CIP also contributes to the most important quality of life component of all for citizens – jobs.

The $300 million CIP started several years ago based on rosy projections of robust economic activity and population growth. By 2009, those estimates were proven far off the mark; either more money would have to be found or the CIP schedule would have to be stretched out a bit. The county tried imposing development impact fees, but that only slowed new construction and also failed to raise as much money as they wanted to spend. Now, they want a $40 million sales tax hike.

Curiously, in drawing up their wish-list including CIP projects, funding for the Georgetown port rose to the top of the list — the only listed project that can reasonably be expected to actually produce economic benefit. But since the amount of funding provided is but a small fraction of the cost of getting our harbor to the needed 27-foot depth, it appears to have been added simply to drum up political support for the new tax. If $5.5 million was the only thing preventing the dredging from going forward, the county could write that check today from available reserves. We certainly don’t need a new eight-year $40 million tax in order to make a $5.5 million down payment on the dredging.

No matter how they try to spin it, this is $40 million of additional taxes over what we pay today. None of the old taxes go away. The millage is not reduced. The county says it might eliminate the impact fees on new development, but that doesn’t help your family’s budget.

The responsible path forward is clear: 1) Fund the dredging using existing county reserves; and 2) Put the other items onto the CIP in priority order and build them when the established sources of funding provide the money to do so.

We urge a “No” vote on the sales tax increase.

Charlie Luquire
Pawleys Island
Stop the Tax Hike Committee

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