The residents of Georgetown County will decide in November whether they want to pay another penny of sales tax.
Georgetown County Council gave final approval of the referendum ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday night. The vote was 5-2 with Council Members Bob Anderson and Ron Charlton voting no.
The Council chamber was overflowing with residents and members of the media, including a television reporter and several newspaper photographers.
At Council’s July meeting, about 20 people urged Council members not to enact a sales tax, and not even to let the matter go to a referendum.
On Tuesday night, most of the 20 people who spoke urged Council members to let the public decide.
“Let our voice be heard,” said Marvin Neal of Georgetown.
“Allow us to vote,” said Bob Wolf of Georgetown. “I believe we can make a wise decision”
“Do not take away the right of the citizens of this county to vote on this referendum,” said Ted Hiley of Pawleys Island.
“Give us the electorate the right to pick our tax future,” said Linda Ketron of Pawleys Island.
“A penny is a small price to pay for what needs to be done,” said Randy Ford of the Plantersville community of Georgetown.
Although in the minority at the meeting, opponents of the tax were still vocal.
Eileen Johnson of Georgetown angrily accused Council members of doing whatever County Administrator Sel Hemingway said to do and building parks so the county could hire more employees.
“I don’t trust you with another bit of money to spend,” she said. “You’re only creating debt.”
Tom Winslow of Georgetown, a candidate for House District 103, said the Georgetown County Republican Party asked him to speak at the meeting.
He said it was Council’s job to decide on the sales tax and urged Council members not to send it to a referendum.
The county GOP passed a resolution last week urging its members not to vote for higher taxes.
Dick Richards of Murrells Inlet said the issue is not whether residents should decide, but whether the tax was good idea. He said the tax would hurt people like him who are living on Social Security.
After listening to comments for nearly an hour, Council members approved the ordinance and were met by a burst of applause, and then a mass exodus of people and media members that brought the meeting to a screeching halt.
Referendums on a one-cent sales tax have been rejected twice by county residents. The most recent, in 2004, would have been used for a property tax rollback.
County Council created a six-person commission in April to investigate whether the county should adopt a one-cent sales tax to fund capital improvement projects.
The commission spent two months scouring the county’s Capital Improvement Plan before coming up with a $39.785 million list of projects that would be funded by the new tax.
The projects are:
• $6.5 million for the Georgetown Library;
• $5.5 million for Winyah Bay dredging;
• $5.16 million for rural road paving;
• $3.75 million for the Andrews Recreation Center;
• $3.75 million for the Choppee Recreation Center;
• $2.81 million for the new Waccamaw Library branch;
• $2 million for the Sampit Library;
• $1.8 million for a Murrells Inlet spoil site;
• $1.5 million for Big Dam Fire Station and substations;
• $1.31 million for Parkersville Road improvements;
• $1.17 million for Wachesaw Park improvements;
• $1 million for Black River Road improvements;
• $950,000 for tee ball/coach pitch facility at Catclaw Park in Andrews;
• $600,000 community park enhancements;
• $500,000 for bikeways;
• $470,000 for a multi-purpose field at 8 Oaks Park;
• $450,000 for tennis courts at 8 Oaks Park.
• $300,000 for a multi-purpose field at Olive Park in Andrews;
• $225,000 for regional parks running track;
• $40,000 for Waccamaw basketball courts;
If approved in November, 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.
By Chris Sokoloski
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