Georgetown County Voters to Decide on Capital Project Sales Tax

When Georgetown County voters go to the polls this fall, they will be asked to decide if a 1-cent sales tax will be implemented to help fund vital capital projects, including dredging at the Port of Georgetown.

County Council voted unanimously on August 12 to put the issue on the ballot in the form of a countywide referendum. If approved, the 1-cent Capital Project Sales Tax would go into effect on May 1, 2015, and disappear four years later on April 30, 2019. State law mandates the tax could not be extended past that term without another referendum.

It is anticipated the tax would generate about $7 million per year, for a total of $28 million during the life of the tax. These funds would be used to pay for projects in three key areas: dredging, countywide road improvements and enhancements to fire and rescue service.

The need for dredging at the Georgetown port was a driving factor in council’s decision to present the sales tax to the public. Dredging at the port has been identified as key to future economic development in the county, but efforts to secure federal funding for the project have been unsuccessful. The state committed funds for the project in its budget this year, but local funds are still needed for the project to go forward. The Capital Project Sales Tax would provide $16.3 million for two local dredging projects and creation of a dredge spoils site.

Dredging at Winyah Bay would allow the Georgetown port to accommodate larger ships and significantly increase tonnage. Each annual increase of 500,000 tons would create 42 new jobs and $1.3 million annually in new local household income, according to a 2010 report by economist Donald Schunk. If the sales tax referendum passes, the county could get the dredging process initiated immediately.

The tax would also fund dredging at Murrells Inlet, an area that contributes significantly to the County’s economy. This would benefit tourism, the commercial fishing industry and local businesses that benefit from tourist activity. Moreover, this would ensure that there will be adequate water depth to provide recreational opportunities to county residents.

The second largest allocation of sales tax revenue would be directed to road resurfacing throughout the county, including within municipalities. Just under $9 million would go into road projects, funding resurfacing of about 45 miles of roadway on about 100 roads.

Press Release, August 14, 2014

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