Charleston County considers half cent sales tax hike to fix roads

Charleston County considers half cent sales tax hike to fix roads

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County residents could soon be paying an extra tax on many of the things you buy everyday. A half cent sales tax is being considered to pay for road improvements.

The county's first step to feeling out if the community would be willing to pass a sales tax increase in November is showing them where that money will go.

They're hosting a series of public meetings this month to get feedback.

'We've been looking at it for a couple years, just the idea of it, and kind of waiting to see what the legislature was going to do with the gas tax," said Charleston County Council Chairman Elliot Summey.

Summey says since a gas tax hasn't been passed at the state level, they want to get the ball rolling to get our roads fixed.

"Every year we wait, it becomes exponentially worse," said Summey.

The county is considering a half cent sales tax. For every dollar spent, a half cent tax will be added to that. Summey says the sales tax would exclude food and medicine.

After getting the community's feedback, Charleston County Council will vote on putting a sales tax referendum on the November ballot. Then, it's fate will be up to Charleston County voters in the general elections.

If the tax referendum passes, it would be on top of the already existing half penny tax passed in 2006.

"Dorchester, Berkeley, Horry - all of them have done full penny sales tax for 25 years, after we kinda blazed the trail, so now what this will be is completing our penny," said Summey.

Summey says its also important to the community to realize how much can be done with this money and how much of it won't even be coming from local residents' pockets.

"Roughly about 35 percent of the sales tax that's collected today, in Charleston County, is paid for by tourism," said Summey. "Another 15 percent is paid for by commuters, people who don't live in Charleston County, maybe live in Dorchester, Colleton, Berkeley county and drive into work everyday."

Charleston County has been working with Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant to identify some of the projects that would take priority.

"Widening Main Road, fixing Highway 41 in Mt. Pleasant, widening Highway 78 in North Charleston," said Summey. "There are 30 intersections in Savannah Highway that we have identified that need improvement."

Summey says a huge part of this process will be hearing from the community about what projects they think are important and worth raising the sales tax for.

"It's not only fixing the traffic issues, also preserving the quality of life that makes this place so special," said Summey. "We don't want to be Atlanta, we don't want to be Charlotte, we want to be Charleston and we want to make sure that we keep this as special of a place that we can."

Click here for a full list of submitted, proposed projects.

The upcoming meetings will take place from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

•    June 15, 2016 – West Ashley High School, 4060 West Wildcat Blvd., Charleston

•    June 20, 2016 – St. Johns High School, 1518 Main Road, Johns Island

•    June 22, 2016 – Location to be determined for James Island meeting

•    June 23, 2016 - Jennie Moore School, 2725 Bulrush Basket Lane, Mt. Pleasant

If you cant make any of them, Charleston County has also created an online comment form that you can complete here.

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