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Calhoun County Council may ask voters if they want a 1 percent capital project sales tax to help fund various projects.

Calhoun County Administrator Lee Prickett said residents have asked the county to do a number of projects, but the projects have not been possible without raising the county's property tax.

"We are constantly battling to try to keep everything active and alive in a small, rural community," Prickett said Wednesday during a Calhoun County Council work session.

"We need to make sure the county is moving forward,” he said.

Prickett says there have been a lot of requests for work at the animal shelter, for road paving and water and sewer infrastructure.

"There are a lot of things that can be done, but because it is a rural area and the distance between houses, you can't pay for it just based upon revenue," Prickett said. "You have to have another source."

The sales tax rate in Calhoun County is 7 percent, with 6 percent being the state sales tax and 1 percent being the local option sales tax. If the capital projects sales tax is approved, the local tax would rise to 8 percent.

"These are projects that are outside of anything we are funding right now, or they could part of what we are funding right now," County Finance Director Denise Christmas said

According to Christmas, the 1 percent tax could generate about $5.2 million in the county over the seven-year duration of the tax.

If voters do not approve the tax referendum, which is expected to be placed on the November ballot, it will not take effect.

If voters approve the tax, the county could borrow money to start the various projects and repay it with the sales tax proceeds, Prickett said.

After the seven-year period, the sales tax would end unless a new referendum is approved by voters for an additional seven years.

Council agreed the referendum would be a good thing to bring before the voters.

The tax would be similar to the one Orangeburg County voters first approved in 1998 and have continually approved since that time.

Councilman John Nelson said it is crucial that all areas and districts of the county be treated fairly and equitably in the distribution of the sales tax proceeds.

Christmas said the county will have to go through several steps before it takes the tax before the voters.

First, Calhoun County Council will need to adopt a resolution to create a capital projects sales tax commission. The commission would consist of six members, with three appointed by county council. The town of St. Matthews will appoint two members and the town of Cameron will appoint one member.

The commission will determine what the tax proceeds will be spent on.

Council will then be able to consider an ordinance placing the issue before the voters.

If they approve the ordinance, voters will be asked in November if they approve the tax. The ballot will include a list of the projects that will be funded.

The county’s existing local option sales tax is used to fund fire service and lower property taxes. About 29 percent of the proceeds go to the fire districts, with the rest used as a tax credit to reduce property taxes.

Prickett said the local option sales tax allows smaller counties such as Calhoun to share a portion of the revenue from larger counties such as Richland.

Last year, Calhoun County collected $749,058 in local option sales taxes.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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