Push for new county tax begins

The push is on to get a referendum on the November ballot seeking a new tax to fund projects around the county.
Mayors and County Council members met Jan. 15 to discuss a capital project sales tax, which would add a 1 percent tax to most purchases made within the county. Money raised from the tax would go toward specific projects designated by a commission made up of representatives from the county and its municipalities.
Voters would have to approve the new tax before it could be enacted.
County Council is pushing for the tax as a way to get things accomplished, such as improvements to the courthouse and a new wing for the jail.
At the meeting were County Council Chairman Freddie Houston and council members Keith Sloan, David Kenner and Jerry Creech. Barnwell Mayor Ed Lemon along with Williston Mayor Jason Stapleton and Snelling Mayor Paul Moore were also there.
All parties agreed the tax is a good idea to raise much needed revenue.
The difficult part is completing the requirements, set by state law, before the question can be put to voters.
A commission must be created with six members. This commission would consider and select projects for the tax revenue to be spent on. The commission would decide how much money goes toward each project and in what order the projects receive funding.
County council would create the commission and select three members. The other three would come from the municipalities based on a formula using population.
Once the commission forms its list of projects, county council would pass an ordinance creating the ballot referendum. The ordinance must list all the projects set by the commission and the amount of tax revenue that would go toward each project. Money from the tax can also be used to pay off debt from bonds issued to pay for projects.
If the tax were approved by voters, it will take effect the following May and last for seven years - when residents would have to vote whether to extend it.
Aiken County voters passed a capital projects sales tax in 2010. The county's commission was formed in March of that year. It had the three county-chosen representatives, one from the City of Aiken and one from North Augusta. The sixth member was labeled "small communities representative."
At the meeting, County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. provided copies of the ordinance Aiken County used as an example.
Houston said the tax is the best and fairest way to raise money because anybody spending money in the county will be paying the tax.
Jerry Creech pushed heavily for some of the money to go toward building a YMCA if the tax becomes a reality. He asked that each town designate some funds toward building a Y, which he estimated could cost between $4 million and $5 million dollars.
The mayors who attended the meeting said they would discuss the tax with their respective councils.

Click here to vote in our poll on the proposed tax.