Florence County officials looking to extend penny sales tax

Florence County officials looking to extend penny sales tax (Image 1)

Florence County officials have already started the process of working toward extending a penny sales tax which helped provide funding for several major road projects.

The tax, which was approved by way of a referendum in 2007, helped to provide funding for the widening of Pine Needles Rd. and will also provide the funding needed for projects on Highways 51, 378, 76 and 301.

The Pine Needles Rd. project is the only completed project so far, due to the fact that county officials chose to collect the money needed for the construction efforts, before starting them.

Florence County Council Chairman James Schofield said during a previous council meeting, that officials were already working to extend the penny sales tax once it expired.

Though Schofield said there was no set list when it came to exactly where the new funds would be directed, officials were taking several options into consideration.

Schofield said Monday that County Council has already set up a committee to help steer the course of the project and said committee members will take into account the opinions of residents when it comes to what the proposed new tax revenue would fund.

“Those who want roads paved, those who want, say, a soccer complex, whatever it is that people have desires for, they will be there (at public hearings) and I'm sure that people who are just totally opposed to the tax will show up too,” Schofield said.

Only one of the six road projects funded by the first penny sales tax referendum is currently complete, but Schofield stressed that the money for the remaining projects is literally “sitting in the bank” and that officials are waiting on transportation authorities to clear up mitigation issues and other red tape.

Schofield said he's optimistic that construction on the remaining projects is close at hand once some of those issues are addressed.

He also said that the continuation of the penny referendum is necessary when it comes to new projects, including those that require money for capital improvements such as the renovations of existing fire and/or EMS stations and the construction of new stations.

Howe Springs Fire Chief Billy Dillon said he understands firsthand the need for funds for capital improvement projects and said he hopes that residents will choose to extend the penny sales tax referendum instead of potentially having to pay higher property taxes.

“The concern is, are we going to be able to generate enough funds to keep up with the daily fuel costs rise, the insurance rise, the cost to have paid personnel,” Dillon said.

“It's just like in EMS, you know, with a heart attack, it all relies on time. It's the same thing with us, can we get to the fire in time, can we get a nozzle on the fire quick enough to make a difference in the structure or to someone's life,” Dillon continued.

The original penny sales tax was set to expire in seven years or when revenues reached $148 million.

County officials say they are working to identify possible projects for the next round of funding that would be made available by a continuation of the penny sales tax.

They plan to hold a series of public meetings on the topic to get the input from community members.

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