County to decide if penny tax goes to ballot

  • Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The ordinance authorizing a new one-cent sales tax and the referendum needed to approve the tax now await final approval by Georgetown County Council.

The Georgetown County Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission finished its work on June 26 by approving the wording of the ordinance and referendum.

County Council gave first reading of the ordinance by title only on June 10. Second reading is scheduled for July 8, and a public hearing followed by third reading is scheduled for Aug. 12.

The county tried to enact a one-cent sales tax two years ago, but the referendum was defeated by 2,755 votes.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway told the committee that last time County Council was split on the sales tax, and there was little support from officials in the City of Georgetown.

This time all of council is on board and there is support in the city, Hemingway said.

If approved, the collection of sales tax would be limited to four years.

The sales tax commission approved, and prioritized $28,212,550 in projects:

1 – $6 million for dredging Winyah Bay;

2 – $10.3 million for Murrells Inlet dredging and disposal site preparation;

3 – $1.5 million for an Andrews fire/police complex;

4 – $1.5 million for fire substations throughout the county;

5 – $8,912,550 for road resurfacing.

There are 104 roads slated for resurfacing and the cost is broken down as follows: $373,200 in Andrews; $473,400 in Murrells Inlet; $977,400 in Litchfield; $1,252,500 in Pawleys Island; $2,887,550 in the western part of the county; and $2,948,500 in Georgetown.

The road resurfacing list does not include federal highways such as 521 (Highmarket Street), 17 or 701 because the county can use federal dollars for maintenance on those roads.

“If we’d taken on Highmarket, we’d spend all the money on that project,” Hemingway said.

The committee agreed to allow the S.C. Department of Transportation to prioritize the list of road projects, but the members, and Hemingway, said they’d like to see as much work as possible start if the referendum is approved.

Hemingway said the county could borrow the money upfront, instead of working on the projects as the money is collected over the four years.

If the referendum is approved by County Council, Hemingway said county officials would have a “traveling roadshow” available to convince the public to vote yes.

“It has to pass for the future of this county, period,” said committee member Jim Jerow, former chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party.

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