June 23, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

The Double Taxation Tsunami

city hall


November 4, 2014 heralded what I’m calling the Tsunami of School Board and County Sales Tax Increases by Ballot Measure on the taxpayers of South Carolina.
Most voters were unaware that they weren’t the only victims of a sales tax hike. In fact, there were 14 counties that voted on an increase of their sales tax for a plethora of reasons – some unbelievable. Two compelling concerns that tax payers should consider:
First, our roads and government buildings are core functions of government – they are priorities – and they should be covered by existing budgets. If they’re not being covered by existing budgets, it follows that other things are. What are they, and was any thought given to cutting them rather than double taxing citizens? And here’s another question: If your county needs a new court house, football stadium, baseball field, bike path, or police or fire station, are your officials going to pay for this through another tax increase in the future?
Here are a just a few tax hikes put on this year’s ballot.
Aiken County School Board asked for a one cent sales tax increase to build two new schools (which were already funded on their five-year plan), build administrative additions to two high schools, and pave a parking lot. The one percent sales tax is backed with a $125 million general obligation bond.
Anderson: PASSED
$279 million to be used for school building and athletic facility upgrade and maintenance. Also, a $30 million “college and career center” is  to be built near the Tri-County Technical College.
Barnwell: FAILED
This measure would have increased the sales tax by one percent and raised $13.1 million, to be used for courthouse and annex renovation, a landfill office, the renovation of an agriculture building, a sewer line, water lines, digital water meters, a police station, the renovation of a fire station, park restrooms, a splash park, welcome signs, a backhoe, renovations to a playground, renovations to a community center, construction of a town hall building, a library and museum, a public works building, an emergency helicopter pad, a fire protection system, storm drain improvements, a municipal building, landscaping, post office renovations, a water storage tank, the acquisition of historical real property, a walking trail, and sidewalk construction.
Berkeley County: PASSED
This measure renews the sales tax increase in order to raise $38 million for highways, roads, bridges, and other transportation-related projects.
Charleston: PASSED
This measure raises $500 million for 35 projects that will build new schools needed to remedy overcrowding as well as a new shared high school stadium.
Chester: PASSED
Chester officials sought to raise $13.5 million for 58 projects: the construction of fire substations, improved concessions, new restrooms and a scoreboard at the local high school, a sewer line to the Giti tire plant, a technology park, renovations at city hall, playground equipment for three elementary schools, a regulation track, the construction of two soccer fields with lighting, sewer line replacements, two softball fields, a police substation, an EMS substation, a high school, maintenance of a facility for a county detention center, the renovation and expansion of a fire station, an athletic field house for each high school, renovations at the Emergency Management Agency, sidewalks, welcome signs, county animal control new office building, museum renovations, streetscapes, and an overflow parking lot.
Georgetown: PASSED
$28 million for dredging.
Greenville: FAILED
$678 million for improvements to bridges, improvement to pedestrian-related transportation facilities (sidewalks, trails, crosswalks and bike lanes).
Kershaw: FAILED
$130 million for construction of an “economic development and educational facility,” and the construction of four elementary schools, one middle school, and the renovatin of two high schools and improvements to its athletic facility.
Lancaster: PASSED
$41.7 million with $27.4 million set aside for road improvements. Supposedly the set-aside would cover both state-maintained and county-maintained roads. The rest would go to library improvements, a crime lab for the sheriff’s department, and an update to the county’s public safety radio network.
Lexington: FAILED
$290 million for 92 capital projects.
Sumter: PASSED
$75 million for 28 new community projects, including improvements to a fire station, a new state-of-the-art judicial center, and a $4 million revamping of the Sumter County Civic Center.
Bear in mind: These were intended to be (and some now are) new taxes for new projects – over and above what these local governments are already taxing citizens. In some cases – take a look at Chester – it’s pretty clear that the money raised will not cover the vast array of things the town wants to do. But in all these cases, local governments should be doing these allegedly important things, if they do them at all, with the money they’re already getting from taxpayers – not with temporary add-on money. By allowing local governments to simply boost their budgets with one-time money in order to pay for priority projects, we’re encouraging the worst kind of government – and imposing double taxation on South Carolina’s citizens.
Debbie Nix is a resident of Aiken.
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