Dorchester County voters to decide if they want new libraries and parks

Updated: Nov. 3, 2016 at 5:32 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Ashley River Park plan (Source: Vote Yes to invest in our future parks and libraries)
Ashley River Park plan (Source: Vote Yes to invest in our future parks and libraries)
Dorchester County Courthouse Park rendering (Source: Dorchester Council)
Dorchester County Courthouse Park rendering (Source: Dorchester Council)

DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Dorchester County could see new libraries and parks in the future if a referendum passes Tuesday.

Residents will vote on a $43 million bond question to allow for more of these amenities.

The ballot questions is one sentence long, but is filled with information that could affect your wallet.

It states:

"Shall Dorchester County, South Carolina be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in an among not to exceed $30,000,000 for funding the acquisition of land and the design and construction of new library facilities in Summerville and North Charleston and general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $13,000,000 for funding recreational facilities, including development of the Dorchester County Courthouse Park in St. George, the Ashley River Park, and the Pine Trace Natural Area in Summerville, and the development of hiking, biking and pedestrian trails, together with associated infrastructure, at various locations throughout the County?"

"We feel very strongly the quality of life, from the standpoint of libraries and parks, are probably two of the most direct ways of improving the quality of life for our citizens," said Dorchester County Council Chairman David Chinnis.

The bond would go into effect for 20 years to pay for new libraries and parks. If approved, it would mean your property taxes would increase.

"The average home in Dorchester County is $150,000," Chinnis said.

Based on the current millage, Chinnis said the average homeowner could have to pay $35-$40 more per year in property taxes.

While this is typical for bond questions, some people in the County say the way the question was written is illegal.

"This is a rigged election by combining two questions onto one," said Summerville Attorney Mike Rose. "If you can combine two you can combine 20, or 200."

Rose represents the Dorchester County Taxpayers Associations, and other individuals, who are suing the County over the referendum question.

Rose said the amenities need to be separated for voters to decide on individually.

"Some [people] are for parks, some are for libraries, some are for neither and some are for both," Rose said.

"It was done to simplify things," Chinnis said. "There was no intent to try to deceive people here. It's very clear what we're going for. We've detailed it without question, and we believe both of them are quality of life and a single issue."

Rose feels listing the two amenities sets a precedent for future elections. Whether the referendum fails or passes, his clients intend to pursue the pending lawsuit.

"If it is deemed illegal, and that's what the court finds, we will ask that the referendum be invalidated," he said.

Rose contacted the State Attorney General for his opinion on the matter.

In a statement he wrote, based on the information provided, having both amenities listed under one question could be deemed unconstitutional. He added it would be up to the courts to hand down a decision.

Dorchester County Council unanimously approved the measure in July to put libraries and parks on the referendum in November.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. All rights reserved.