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Sales tax: Council names committee to draft referendum

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Council was supposed to appoint three members to the commission that will determine the details of how a proposed 1-cent capital sales tax would be spent.

Instead council appointed five of the commission’s six members this week. Two — Dan Stacy and Donald Godwin — are Waccamaw Neck residents. The first member, Henry Milton, was appointed by the Georgetown City Council.

Under state law, the city was supposed to appoint two members from within its boundaries, and those appointees would choose another from within the town limits of either Pawleys Island or Andrews. When after nearly a month and multiple attempts city officials still didn’t have two willing and qualified appointees, the task was passed on to the county.

Of two appointees initially selected by city officials, one declined and the second didn’t live within the city limits. Two more were proposed and Milton was appointed, but the other declined.

Though the duty changed hands, the county continued a dialogue with city officials and allowed them to have a say on the final two municipal nominees, said County Administrator Sel Hemingway. George Geer Jr. of Georgetown and Walletta Joye Thornton of Andrews were appointed, along with the three members from unincorporated Georgetown County that council was originally tasked with selecting.

In addition to Stacy and Godwin, Kyle W. Daniel was appointed. Stacy is an attorney and Pawleys Island area resident, while Godwin, who lives in Heritage Plantation, is owner of Southern Asphalt. Daniel lives in Hemingway and is a local agent for the Department of Agriculture.

County officials were working Tuesday to arrange an orientation meeting for the commission members, Hemingway said. Hopes were to schedule the meeting for early next week.

In addition to determining what capital projects would be funded with proceeds from a 1-cent sales tax, the commission will formulate the referendum question that will appear on the ballot in November asking county residents if they want a capital project sales tax. The commission’s recommendations are due to council by the end of June and council will vote on whether to proceed before the end of August, said Council Member Bob Anderson.

The proposed tax could put as much as an extra $48.3 million in the budget for the county’s capital improvement plan, depending on how long it’s in place. The tax can be implemented for a two-, four-, six- or eight-year period, to be specified in the referendum. At four years it would generate $20.3 million for the plan, replacing impact fee revenue. Plans are to eliminate impact fees if the public approves the tax in a vote.

The tax would not apply to items the state doesn’t charge sales tax for, including food and prescription medicine.

In pitching the proposal for a 1-cent tax to council in February, Hemingway listed several possibilities for use of the funds, including dredging of Winyah Bay to facilitate bringing more business to the Georgetown port, paying off debt, paving all the roads on the county’s waiting list and restoring plans for a new Waccamaw Library to its original scope. The $6 million library project was scaled back to $3.5 million in 2010, reducing the proposed size of the facility from 27,000 to 17,000 square feet. Dwight McInvaill, library director, said 27,000 square feet is the minimum recommended for a population the size of the Waccamaw Neck.

There would also be potential to add projects to the capital plan.

It is projected that about 25 percent of funds generated by a capital projects sales tax would come from visitors to the county. The county currently has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state.

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