Georgetown County Council has had a capital improvement plan (CIP) since at least 2004, and is spending over $300 million on it, funded by property tax, impact fees, grants, etc. Council established the $300 million plan without a sales tax. It appears that they deliberately avoided a referendum because of earlier failures. At any rate they funded it without sales tax. In that regard, council will soon borrow another $26 million to fund CIP projects without a sales tax to pay it back.
The proposed sales tax is to pay for a brand new capital spending plan – maybe it's Vision III – that cherry picks some projects from the current CIP, adds a bunch of new ones to attract support, and includes $5.5 million for dredging the ship channel.
We don't need a new capital spending plan or a new tax. We have a CIP; much has been said about the flexibility of the CIP. Up to now, that flexibility has been demonstrated by delaying and modifying projects, but steadily moving ahead. Dredging is a new $5.5 million challenge. There is nothing to prevent the CIP flexibility to be demonstrated again and include the dredging; the $5.5 million would be 2 percent of the $300 CIP. Include it and adjust other projects accordingly.
Dredging started the discussion, but the discussion has “morphed” from spending $5.5 million for dredging to spending $40 million, with over $20 million of that new spending -- $25 million including dredging. The port is important to economic health, while much of the other is not.
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The sales tax commission met seven times. I attended all but one of those meetings. I was skeptical going in, and I was disappointed as the process moved along. I commend the commission members for stepping forward, but it appeared to me that its purpose was not to develop a good plan to move the county forward, but to develop a list with something for everybody in order to garner support for a sales tax. In that regard, county voters deserve better from government during these uncertain times.
The writer lives in Pawleys Island.