1-cent sales tax placed on ballot for schools

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - By Hatzel Vela  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County School District board members are asking the public to approve an eight-year, 1-cent sales tax increase in November.

The revenue would cover the approximately $540 million list of projects the district would like to finish.

The list includes revamping the schools officials have deemed seismically unsafe: Sullivan's Island Elementary, Charleston Progressive Academy, Buist Academy and James Simmons and Memminger Elementary schools.

The district also has other building needs such as renovations to other schools and new athletic facilities.  The list of projects on the priority list is based on life safety, growth and program needs.

School board chair Ruth Jordan said the eight-year sales tax hike would generate $200 million more for the construction versus the sales tax increase.

"When we looked at the list of priorities, there is no way that we can make all that happen in five years. An eight-year priority would give us more in terms of athletic facilities," Jordan said.

Jordan voted for the eight year limit.

The other option was to spread the sales tax over five years, but opponents said that option would only generate $350 million dollars.

Half of that has already been used for rebuild the five seismically challenged schools, Jordan said.

Board member Chris Fraser wanted the sales tax spread over five years instead of eight, but he still supports the plan that passed.

"I felt like the five year tax was something the public could get their arms around. It's got a pretty short window of cost. They can see what we're doing. I felt like it might encourage a little more accountability and transparency," Fraser said.

Board Member Arthur Ravenel was the one who pushed eight year plan.

He and the rest of the board will have to convince voters to vote yes.

"I think people want to know what's in it for my students. What's in it for my community and so going off of eight years would give everybody something?" Jordan said.

Because the district can't get involved, the campaign will be run by people not affiliated with the board, such as parents and companies in the private sector.

The money to run the campaign will also have to be raised by private sources.

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