CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston Republicans and NAACP Chapter leaders are not supporting the penny sales tax referendum on the ballot for Charleston County voters Tuesday.
Charleston County School Board approved the six-year, penny sales tax increase, which they said would go toward rebuilding seismically unsafe schools and evaluating other schools in the school district.
The Charleston NAACP Chapter President Dot Scott says it could be racially divisive. She says more money will end up funding a project at Wando High School, which is predominantly white over a project at Burke, which is predominantly black.
"Here is this cute thing, say yes for school, how do you say no to public schools when you sell it that way?" NAACP President Dot Scott said. "If you can spend $47 million plus for an addition to Wando and $5 million for Burke, there is a problem."
[Read the spreadsheet on spending in the schools. (Excel 2007)]
The school district has an entire capital program plan in place and so far 17 schools have been built or completely renovated. If approved the penny sales tax would pay for not only the seismic rebuilds and evaluations, but a whole list of other projects. GOP leaders and the NAACP say they knew nothing about the other projects, only about the seismic repairs.
"I think it's misleading and we find so many times that our school board does mislead us on these tax increases. They say it's for one thing and then they end up adding special projects," Charleston County GOP Chair Lin Bennett said.
"When I say the devils in the details and you look at how they are actually going to spend the money to me it is about as dishonest to the community as it can be," Scott said.
NAACP leaders and GOP officials say that this isn't the time to raise taxes. They say people and businesses are suffering from the economy.
The school district says if the vote fails, property owners will pay more in property taxes to pay for four of the seismically challenged schools. Rebuilidng and equipping Sullivan's Island Elementary will be paid for in a previous capital building plan. Republican leaders say they will address that issue if needed in the future.
"The property tax issue, I have a feeling that won't be a threat. People are losing their homes with the economy the way it is. As I said, there is no money out there. We can't just keep threatening people with tax increases," Bennett said.
The vote Yes4Schools campaign is also out in full force.
"We've spent way too long not building, not moving our district. Now is the time we have to vote yes on the sales tax and move forward all of these projects," Patrick Bryant said.
The Chamber of Commerce and Charleston Realtors Association are also in support.