County Council heard opinions from about 20 residents on a proposed one-cent sales tax during its meeting on Tuesday night.
Residents spoke passionately and angrily, while urging Council not to enact a sales tax, and not let the matter go to a referendum.
In the end, Council voted 5-2 to give second reading to the ordinance authorizing the referendum. Council will vote one more time, on Aug. 14. If the ordinance is approved again the referendum will be on the ballot in November.
Council members Bob Anderson and Ron Charlton were the only two “no” votes on Tuesday.
Anderson described himself as a “Fair Tax” advocate and said he had hoped to trade some property tax for the sales tax.
Charlton said he came to the meeting with an open mind but was swayed by the people who spoke in opposition to the proposal.
Of the people who spoke, the majority were against the proposal.
Charlie Luquire of Pawleys Island, who has been rallying opposition to the sale tax on the Waccamaw Neck, thinks the officials came up with a list of projects that everybody would vote for, not projects that would be good for the county.
There are about $40 million in projects in the proposed referendum.
“We’re spending more than we make and we cannot sustain it,” said Eileen Johnson of Georgetown, who opened her remarks by saying it was “worthless” to talk to Council.
Johnson and Elizabeth Powers of Pawleys Island were both angry that the county had recently hired a tennis pro, although that money has nothing to do with the proposed sales tax.
“We’re not running a country club here,” Johnson said.
“The timing is wrong to be building more libraries and recreation centers,” said Sue Reddy of Pawleys Island.
The proposal contains $12.2 million for parks and recreation and $11.31 million for libraries.
“Libraries are akin to building a record store,” said Robert Scotnicki of Pawleys Island.
Jean Cross of DeBordieu, who is heading the Friends of Waccamaw Library’s efforts to raise funds for a new library on Waccamaw Neck, asked Council to approve the referendum so “representatives from all of Georgetown County have their voices heard.”
Cross’ comments were met by a smattering of boos from the approximately 50 people in attendance.
Linda Caswell of Pawleys island said the Friends should raise the money if they want a new library.
“Our taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used for that.”
“My common sense is that you’re going down a path of spending money that you don’t have to go down,” said Anita Lampley of Murrells Inlet.
“This idea sounds like something out of Washington instead of Georgetown,” said Paige Sawyer of Georgetown.
County Council Chairman Johnny Morant and Council members Jerry Oakley and Leona Myers-Miller said they wanted to let the residents of Georgetown County decide.
“The decision is not whether to raise taxes, it is whether the citizens should make that decision,” Morant said. “Georgetown County is not raising any sort of tax tonight.”
Oakley also wanted to see the process through to the end.
“At the start, when Councilman Anderson made the motion to start this process, Council committed itself to a process which would culminate in a voter referendum in November,” Oakley said. “I’m a believer in doing what you said you would do. Council should do what it said it would do, and set the issue for the voters to decide in a referendum on the November ballot.”
By Chris Sokoloski
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