County forms committee for penny sales tax referendum

  • Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A penny sales tax referendum for capital projects will once again be on the ballot in November, if all goes according to a plan summarized by Georgetown County administrator Sel Hemingway.

A referendum for a penny sales tax that would last eight years was turned down by voters in 2012.

On Thursday, May 15, a newly formed Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission met to discuss plans for projects and a schedule for getting a referendum on the November ballot.

The commission members are George Geer III, chair, Tracey Gibson, Thomas Alford, Larry Baxley, Bill Hills and Jim Jerow.

According to the plan, first reading of the referendum, by title only, would take place at the June 10 County Council meeting.

The commission has until July 8, for second reading, to have all of the projects listed by priority and the ballot question formulated.

Third reading of the referendum would be at the August 12 County Council meeting, just days before the deadline to get the referendum on the November ballot.

Hemingway explained to commission members, that this time, the sales tax will be for a period of four years and it will automatically go away after those four years.

Hemingway let commission members know that 38 out of 46 counties in South Carolina have some type of sales tax added to the minimum six percent and Georgetown County is one of only six counties that do not.

Based on surveys conducted by the County, Hemingway suggested five projects that the public would most likely support.

“Last time, citizens didn’t embrace the plan because there were too many projects that didn’t serve core needs,” Hemingway said.

“(The surveys) indicated 70 percent approval rate for these five project areas.”

The suggested projects are:

Dredging of the Georgetown Port, estimated to cost $6 million (added to federal and state funding still pending)

Murrells Inlet Dredging Spoil Site, estimated to cost $8 million

Building of fire substations, estimated to cost $2 million

County-wide road improvements, estimated to cost $5.2 million

New Andrews police and fire facilities, estimated to cost $1.5 million

The commission will decide whether to include all or some of these projects, with additional projects possible.

Hemingway said the penny sales tax would bring in an estimated $7 million per year.

Hemingway explained that money can be borrowed in anticipation of collections so projects can get started faster.

The next meeting of the Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission will be Thursday, May 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building on Prince Street in Georgetown.

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