Taxpayers fear portion of half-cent sales tax revenue could fund I-526 extension

Taxpayers fear portion of half-cent sales tax revenue could fund I-526 extension

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - On Tuesday night, Charleston County Council passed the second reading of an ordinance that commits the county to funding part of the I-526 extension project.

The State Infrastructure Bank has set aside $420 million for the project and Charleston County has to come up with $300 million.

Council approved an ordinance that states the county commitment will not be more than 150 million dollars, the rest of the money will need to come from federal guide shares, or as County Council member Elliot Summey says is the amount of money the local area gets annually in federal transportation dollars.

The I-526 interstate will connect from West Ashley into James and Johns Islands.

An amendment was proposed by Councilman Dickie Schweers Tuesday night to add to that ordinance relating to I-526, asking Charleston County Council to commit to not use half-cent sales tax funds that were voted on in November to fund 526.

Council denied this amendment which had some Charleston County tax payers concerned.

"I just cannot comprehend how county council can do this, it's beyond comprehension how you can say one thing and another as a county servant," Maria Parker said, "It is now clear council wants to spend money from the half-cent sales tax that was specifically not supposed to go for 526."

Schweers agreed the tax money could help fund the 526 extension project.

"I feel that they indeed do plan to use half-cent sales tax funds for 526," Schweers said.

Schweers said if the money is used from that half-cent sales tax that would mean fewer road improvements that the sales tax was supposed to pay for.

"The main projects will probably still occur but the road resurfacing, road improvements, the unnamed projects will suffer by 150 million dollars," Schweers said.

Charleston County Councilman Elliot Summey said the big projects would still happen, but some of the tax money could help I-526.

"We've got many options and we don't necessarily have to use sales tax to get there but I'll tell you, we're going to build those eight, nine projects that were listed on the sales tax, will be built with the money from the sales tax and we're going to have lots of money beyond that that we can use to fill the gaps for Mark Clark if it's needed," Summey said.

But that has others wondering why they've said all along there's not been any money.

"They've been saying for years there's no money, there's no money, so where's this money coming from? So council won't say where the money is coming from and they just admitted they plan to dip into the half-cent sales tax," Parker said.

Summey said there are other options to fund the 526 extension project.

"There's federal guide share money available. There is state guide share money available. grants from the federal government," Summey said.

County council must vote on this 526 ordinance one more time.

They will then meet with the transportation review board in March.
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