Pros and cons of penny sales tax debated

  • Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When voters head to the polls in 25 days to choose the next president, Georgetown County residents will also be deciding whether they want to pay another penny in sales tax.
The new tax would pay for $40 million in projects, including dredging the Port of Georgetown, paving roads, and building fire stations and a new library branch on Waccamaw Neck.
Groups on both sides of the issue are rallying supporters.
Charlie Luquire, a Waccamaw Neck resident, organized the “Stop the Sales Tax” group.
“We’re sticking to a simple theme and message, now is not the time for a $40 million tax increase,” he said, especially with a 2 percent hike in the Social Security tax expected next year.
The group has put up billboards, sent out mailers, and paid for yard signs and bumper stickers.
Luquire attended the meetings of the committee County Council appointed to come up with a list of projects that would be funded by a new sales tax.
He believes the county realized two years ago that it wouldn’t have enough money to pay for many of the capital projects it had in the works and needed a new revenue source.
“The list was being put together primarily to get some of the projects that had been delayed back on schedule,” he said.
County Council’s decision to tie the repeal of impact fees with the passage of the sales tax referendum is a plus for supporters, Luquire said.
The “Stop the Sales Tax” group does have one thing in common will supporters of the sales tax: dredging the Port of Georgetown needs to be done, and soon.
Bill Crowther, executive director of the Georgetown County Economic Development Alliance, agrees with Luquire that the Port needs to be dredged.
But Crowther wants to see some of that money come from the new sales tax.
Crowther is also chairman of Pennies for Progress, a group advocating for the sales tax. His group is also putting up billboards and lawn signs, sending out mailers and passing out bumper stickers.
They’ve even sponsored a float in today’s Waccamaw High School homecoming parade.
“Once the community sees what they get, it’s a good thing for the buck,” Crowther said. “It’s a good first step toward getting the port dredged.”
Crowther said in some way, the new tax is an economic development package, and new parks and better libraries add to the overall quality of life of county residents.
“When we’re looking to attract new business to Georgetown County, quality of life is a huge factor in attract people.”
He also stressed that about a quarter of the revenue would come from visitors and non-residents and all the money would be spent in the county.
Crowther said the feedback Pennies for Progress has been getting about the tax has been positive, and he believes there is “small pocket of opposition on [Waccamaw] Neck,” mostly people who oppose taxes of any kind.
If approved, the new tax would begin May 1, 2013.
Under the terms of the referendum, the tax would only be collected for eight years. Another referendum would be required to extend it.
For more information go to www.nopennytax.com or find the Pennies for Progress page on Facebook.
 
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The committee appointed by County Council came up with a list of $40 million in projects that would be paid for by the sales tax money.
The projects, ranked in order of priority, are:
• $5.5 million for Winyah Bay dredging;
• $1.8 million for a Murrells Inlet dredge spoil site;
• $5.16 million for rural road paving;
• $1 million for Black River Road improvements;
• $1.31 million for Parkersville Road improvements;
• $1.5 million for Big Dam Fire Station and substations;
• $2.81 million for the new Waccamaw Library branch;
• $2 million for the Sampit Library;
• $6.5 million for the Georgetown Library;
• $3.75 million for the Andrews Recreation Center;
• $3.75 million for the Choppee Recreation Center;
• $470,000 for a multi-purpose fields at 8 Oaks Park;
• $500,000 for bikeways;
• $225,000 for regional parks running track;
• $600,000 community park enhancements;
• $950,000 for tee ball/coach pitch facility at Catclaw Park in Andrews;
• $1.17 million for Wachesaw Park improvements;
• $300,000 for a multi-purpose fields at Olive Park in Andrews;
• $40,000 for Waccamaw basketball courts;
• $450,000 for tennis courts at 8 Oaks Park.

By Chris Sokoloski
csokoloski@gtowntimes.com

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