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August 3, 2014

Horry County anticipates up to $21 million surplus in penny sales tax collections

Horry County is anticipating $21 million in excess funds from the 2006 one-cent sales tax referendum that raised $425 million for road improvements throughout the county.

Horry County is anticipating $21 million in excess funds from the 2006 one-cent sales tax referendum that raised $425 million for road improvements throughout the county.

An unprecedented 61 percent of voters in 2006 opted to add a penny to purchases made from May 2007 to May 2014 to afford the Road Improvement Development Effort II, or RIDE II program. RIDE II was the coordinated effort that bought such projects as the Aynor overpass, the U.S. 17 Bypass/S.C. 707 bridge that is currently under construction, the extension of S.C. 31 to near the Georgetown County line, 100 miles of paved roads in the county, and much more.

The law in 2006 stated the county could collect the tax for seven full years or until it reached $425 million, whichever came first. The county monitored the tax through state receipts and chose to collect the tax through seven years.

The $21 million figure is not final until all projects are complete, which should last well into, if not beyond, 2017. Projects like the widening of S.C. 707, the widening of Glenn’s Bay road, the extension of S.C. 31 and the paving of two lanes on International Drive from Carolina Forest to S.C. 90 are still being worked on, but not near completion.

“We have not yet completed all of our projects so there will be a time to wait, from the standpoint of determining if, in fact, there is excess funds,” said Anne Wright, the county’s finance director. “If there is excess funds, under the old law, it will go to the general fund.”

Wright said county staff recommends that the infrastructure and regulation staff develop a proposed project list to make a recommendation to County Council in the event there is money left over.

The $21 million projected surplus is in stark contrast to the more than $20 million shortfall the county and state faced during the first RIDE program, which was due to higher than anticipated right-of-way acquisitions.

The county is currently working on developing a plan for RIDE III, which it hopes to pitch to voters in 2016.

Unlike in 2006, the current law states the County Council would create an ordinance that would determine where excess funds would go, if there are excess funds. The new law also allows counties to collect for up to eight years as opposed to the seven in RIDE II.

An Aug. 14 date has been set for the committee appointed by councilmen and the Horry County League of Cities to meet about RIDE III.

“It’ll be a slow process to begin with to lay out the roads that are out there,” said Mark Lazarus, council chairman. “They’ll look at [Grand Strand Area Transportation Study]’s priorities and the leftovers from RIDE II and determine if they’re relevant or not relevant, and then they’ll formulate a number of roads that they’ll look at, and then they’ll come up with their final recommendations. Then we’ll form our six-person commission that will actually make their recommendation to County Council.”

County Council makes the final determination of the road projects and the order of priority it will be presented to taxpayers.

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