One-cent sales tax commission begins work

  • Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The commission that will draft a referendum on a one-cent sales tax and make recommendations on how the money should be spent met for the first time on Tuesday night.
Dan Stacy of Pawleys Island was elected chairman by the other members in attendance: Henry Milton and George Geer Jr., both of Georgetown, Walletta Joye Thornton of Andrews, and Donald Godwin of Pawleys Island.
The last member of the commission, Kyle W. Daniel of Hemingway, was not at the meeting.
Thornton said she was asked by a friend to serve.
“I’m concerned about what goes in Andrews as well as Georgetown County,” Thornton said.
She said the commission’s most important tasks will be educating the public and finding specific things that make people want to vote for it.
That was a concern of Godwin’s also.
“In order to sell it to the public we’re going to have to give something back to the public,” Godwin said.
County Administrator Sel Hemingway said selling points will be different depending on where a person lives. The money might be used to pay for tennis courts on Waccamaw Neck, and paving roads somewhere else.
“There will be some people who, if they get their dirt road paved, they’re for it,” he said.
Hemingway said county staff will provide the commission with a detailed list of projects from the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), and examples of other referendums, including sales tax referendums from other counties.
Georgetown County is one of only six counties in the state that does not have a sales tax.
The county projects a one-cent sales tax would raise $5.5 million a year. About 26 percent of the revenue would come from visitors and people who work in the county, but don’t live here.
By law the sales tax would be limited to a maximum of eight years, for an estimated total of $44 million. Commission members will review all the CIP projects and choose the ones they feel should be funded.
As the commission begins its work, state law prohibits the sales tax money from being used for dredging projects.
“We could be challenged if we list dredging as one of the projects,” Hemingway said.
Sen. Yancey McGill, (D-Kingstree) and Sen. Ray Cleary, (R-Murrells Inlet), have proposed a bill, which is working its way through the legislature, to allow the revenue to be used for dredging.
Hemingway said if the bill passes, the county would look at dredging projects for Winyah Bay and Murrells Inlet.
County Council has discussed repealing impact fees, which are used for law enforcement, libraries, recreation and transportation, if the one-cent sales tax passes.
Councilman Bob Anderson would like to see the sales tax replace impact fees and take care of the county’s debt service.
“I thing this will be a good thing if we do it wisely,” Anderson said.
If passed in November, the one-cent sales tax would take effect on May 1, 2013.
Referendums on a one-cent sales tax have been rejected twice by county residents. The most recent, in 2004, would have been used for a property tax rollback. This year’s referendum cannot include a property tax reduction.
The county is planning Town Hall meetings and other lobbying efforts in September and October to educate voters.
The commission needs to have its work done by the beginning of June because County Council only meets once a month during the summer.
Council would have to give first reading to the proposed referendum in June and second and third reading in July and August to get it on the ballot in November.
The commission will meet every Thursday at 5 p.m. in County Council’s chambers. Meetings are open to the public.

By Chris Sokoloski

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