Our two cents on the one-cent tax

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Are you willing to pay an extra penny of sales tax in Barnwell County? What if it would pay for capital projects around the county?

That’s the question voters are expected to be asked November 8 assuming the Barnwell County Council approves an ordinance next week adding the proposal for the 1-cent tax to the ballot.

If you remember, voters struck down a similar referendum for a capital projects sales tax in 2014. After its defeat we asked local leaders to pick better projects if they wanted public support. This time, elected officials at municipal and county levels gave thought to not only what they wanted on the list but what they felt was necessary to improve the lives of resients.

While the basic idea is the same this go-around, we hope voters will give this tax proposal some consideration. Just because you opposed it last time doesn’t mean this isn’t a good option for Barnwell County. Please educate yourself on the tax projects, which would be imposed for eight years, before making up your mind either way.

No one really wants to pay more taxes, but it is important to consider what we would be getting for our pennies.

The tax, if approved, would pay for brick and mortar type projects the county and municipalities have requested. No salaries or programs would be funded with the tax revenue. Some of the projects may also require acquiring matching grants but the funding will give local government the opportunity to go after those grants.

A number of projects target water and sewer line upgrades and extensions, some of which are approaching 100 years old. This might not excite the average person, but these projects are important as they will benefit all residents in some way. Some of these projects could also assist in recruiting industries to an industrial park, which is good news for all of us.

Other projects, such as funds to demolish blighted properties in Blackville, adding restrooms to Fuller Park in Barnwell and adding a farmers market building in Elko, will enhance those towns.

A new public safety building to house the fire and police departments in the City of Barnwell could make our community safer by giving officers and firefighters better facilities and resources to do their jobs. Their current facilities are outdated, cramped and inefficient.

We believe these are better projects than those considered in 2014.

One item we heard opposition to two years ago was funding a new town hall building in Kline that was estimated to cost over $200,000. That cost has been scaled back this time and the town officials want to build a town hall and community center building. Kline is one of the smallest municipalities in the county and this project gives its residents a place to hold community events as well as hold government meetings. The town has also saved some money to match with the CST funds to complete it. They have a stake in the matter.

Many of these projects are going to have to be done eventually, such repairs to the historic courthouse, as weather is continuing to damage the structure. Money for repairs will only grow as the damage expands. If this tax does not pass, other funding sources will have to be sought, such as a millage increase on all property owners.

In our opinion, the capital projects sales tax seems to be the fairest way to reach those goals. It would be imposed not only on Barnwell County residents but anyone who visits and buys goods. Other counties, including Aiken, are taxing us when we visit.

If they spend a dollar, they pay a penny to help Barnwell County. If they spend $10 dollars, they pay a dime.

It isn’t imposed on unprepared groceries. It isn’t imposed on medicine. It isn’t imposed on gasoline or other already regulated items such as the sale of vehicles.

The mayors, councils and administrators of the municipalities seem to give this proposed tax their full support. Listen to them. Ask questions.

In the coming months it will be up to the county’s voters to decide what they want to do.

We’d love to hear your two-cents worth on this one-cent issue. Submit your signed letter to the editor by visiting our office at 10481 Dunbarton Boulevard in Barnwell, faxing it to (803) 259-3501 or emailing jonathan.vickery@morris.com. All letters must be signed and have a contact number in case of questions.