Government

Council introduces 1% tax; citizens respond

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Clarendon County Council met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 11, where they held a public hearing and final reading of a new 1% sales tax. This tax, which was created by a Clarendon County Capital Project Sales Tax Commission, was finally presented to council and the public after the commission deliberated and heard from members of the public for the past 8 months. 
The tax, which will add one cent on every dollar, will fund several special projects. Those projects are listed below:
 
County-wide emergency operations center/911 call center $8,100,000
Church Street Park (Manning) $4,540,000
Town Hall (Paxville) $350,000
Town Hall/Police Department (Summerton) $2,000,000
Fire Station (Turbeville) $1,700,000
Centrally located recreation park/facilities with competition ball fields $6,500,000
Library branch facility (Summerton) $2,600,000
I-95 wastewater improvements (Manning) $1,250,000
Recreation park(s) (Paxville) $1,500,000
Downtown beautification (Summerton) $1,000,000
Downtown beautification (Turbeville) $250,000
Recreation park(s) (St. Paul area) $1,500,000
Fire/rescue sub-station (Station 5) (Paxville area) $675,000
Clarendon County industrial park infrastructure $840,000
Fire/rescue sub-station (Station 11) (Brewington area) $725,000
Fire/rescue sub-station (Station 15) (Liberty area) $725,000
Recreation Park(s) (Turbeville) $1,500,000
Centrally located, county-wide fire training facility with burn building $5,750,000
 
So, how does this tax work? Let's start by reading the ordinance:
An Ordinance to levy and impose a one percent sales and use tax, subject to a referendum in Clarendon County pursuant to the CPST act, South Carolina Code annotated section 4-10-300, Et Seq.; To define the specific purposes and designate the projects for which the proceeds of the tax may be used; to proved the maximum time for the imposition and collection of the tax; to provide for a county-wide referendum and to prescribe the contents of the ballot question in the referendum; to provide conditions precedent to the imposition of the tax and conditions or restrictions on the use of the tax revenue; to establish the priority in which the net proceeds of the tax are to be expended for the purposes and projects stated; to provide for the conduct of the referendum by the clarendon county board of voter registration and elections; to provide for the payment of the tax; to provide for the issuance of bonds, in one or more series, tax-exempt or taxable, in an amount not to exceed the aggregate of $[]; authorizing the county administrator to prescribe the form and details of the bonds; providing for the payment of the bonds and pledge of revenues related to the bonds; providing otherwise for the disposition of the proceeds of the bonds; providing for borrowing in anticipation of the issuance of the bonds; providing for the disposition of property related to the bonds; and to provide for related matters.
Now, let’s break that down. This ordinance is basically an additional sales tax being put in place throughout the county. The rest of the legal lingo is different coverages and allowances for the county. The main point here is that there is a 1% sales tax being established.
The plan, according to Commission member Pro Prothro, is to borrow an eventual sum of $35,000,000 to cover project costs over the next eight years. This 35 million will eventually be paid back by the penny tax, 50% of which Prothro says will come from I-95 traffic. However, Council is being very conservative with their lending. For starters, If the penny tax is approved by voters in November, Council will only borrow around 22 million of the proposed 35. If, however, the penny tax does not bring in the projected amount of money in the first few years, Council will not borrow the remaining 13 million.
"22 million is a number we know we can reach," said Prothro. "That is why we will only borrow that amount at the beginning."
Councilman Stewart eventually opened the floor to the public, and several of them voiced their opinions on the new tax.
"I think raising taxes is a horrible idea,” said one concerned citizen. “I think in this time of uncertainty with inflation, gas prices, and everything costing more, it is a horrible idea.”
That unnamed citizen also expressed his disappointment with not having seen notice of the public hearing posted anywhere.
“No one wants a tax increase, no one,” said Blakely. “But we have to have them to move forward."
Another citizen took issue with the project list.
"Why are we paying for new parks when Summerton doesn't have clean water," said another unnamed citizen.
Prothro then explained that the project list was decided by members of each community, and that Summerton officials assured him that it was taken care of. 
Several other citizens addressed council before the eventually closed the public hearing. They then had the third and final reading of the ordinance before approving it and adjourning.

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