GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCSC) - A renovated detention center, new hangers at the county airport and a whole network of bike paths: Those are just a few of the projects that could have been funded by a proposed sales tax increase in Georgetown County.
But Georgetown County Council decided to table the idea Tuesday because of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.
“When county council started this initiative, they appointed the commission back in January and, obviously, we hadn’t heard much about COVID-19,” county public information officer Jackie Broach said. “We had no idea that we would be here today seeing this kind of economic impact.”
Tax increases at the county level need to be approved by the taxpayers through a referendum. Even if the economy was strong, it is unclear if the one-cent sales tax would have passed. Still, the council believed it was too much to ask for more money from the taxpayers given the situation.
“Economically, I think it’s just a bad environment,” Council Member Steven Goggans said. “We need time to recover and we need a little more of a sense of optimism and confidence in the economy.”
Had the plan gone through, it was projected to bring in $80 million over the course of eight years. It would have funded around a dozen projects.
The current wish-list had 89 projects listed and included infrastructure needs like resurfacing roads, addressing sewage issues, and providing for a dredging plan. There were also a few qualities of life projects like a new swimming complex, bike paths and additions to local parks.
“The short answer is they don’t get done this year,” Broach said. “There was no guarantee that the referendum with the sales tax would have gone through even if we had moved forward.”
Some projects could find new life from other pools of money.
“Water sewer projects can be funded by grants or by user fee or thing of that nature,” Goggans said.
In 2014, an additional sales tax was adopted to fund eight major projects. That tax expired in 2018, but has set a precedent for the future. County leaders say they may look to bring the plan back in the next year or two.