Sales tax referendum on ballot for the fourth time in Dorchester County

DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - On Tuesday Dorchester County voters will decide whether to lower property taxes by raising the county sales tax by one percent, and it's a tax that has been put to the test three times before.

"If you look at a Berkeley County tax bill, just across the county line, you see that it's real, and it's real savings," says Dorchester County council chairman Bill Hearn.

Hearn says he wants to bring those savings to Dorchester County, but he says it has been a hard sell in the past.

"We're, of course, the only county in the immediate area that does not have local option or a version of local option in place."

If the measure passes, the sales tax will go up to 8 percent. That is the same as Berkeley County and slightly lower than Charleston County, which stands at 8.5 percent. Hearn says people who live in Dorchester County are paying that higher sales tax already when they shop in Berkeley and Charleston Counties.

"Our citizens are going across the county line, shopping, helping reduce taxes for residents of other counties. In other words, we're helping everybody but our self."

Council member Larry Hargett says last month he voted to push the referendum to next year. He says voters may not fully understand the legislation.

"The ultimate value, if it were a perfect world, is to lower your property taxes on your property, and some people will see that, some people will realize that, some will not."

Hearn says the tax will level the playing field in the tri-county area.

"When industry is coming to scout Dorchester County they look at, not sales tax, they're looking at property tax, and we need to be competitive with our neighboring counties."

If the measure passes, county officials say the one-percent sales tax hike will generate roughly $8 million for the county.