Beaufort City Council continues support of local option sales tax

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 11, 2014 

  • In other business, council:

    • Awarded $207,525 in accommodation-tax grants to 13 of 14 organizations that applied for money.
    • Gave initial approval to an ordinance allowing businesses to lease small parts of Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The ordinance, and leases for Plums and YoYo's Ice Cream, will be discussed at a March 18 work session and voted on March 25.
    • Discussed the Bailey Bill, a program that would freeze the taxable value of a property as an incentive to renovate historic homes.
    • Discussed creation of a Tree and Parks Commission to replace the current Tree Board and expand its role. The Southside Park Committee could become a subcommittee.
    • Waived the fees for the Parrish Church of St. Helena to use Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park for a revival Sept. 19-20 and for First Scots Independent Presbyterian Church to have a sunrise service at the park April 20.
    • Had a public hearing about the rezoning of 1011 and 1015 Bay St. and 310 and 314 Charles St.
    • Granted final approval to changes to ordinances regulating critical area setbacks.
    • Granted final approval to an amendment of the fiscal year 2014 budget that accounts for changes that include receipt of grants, the Duke Street renovation project, sale of a fire truck and expansion of phase one of the Beaufort Downtown Marina mooring field.
    • Proclaimed March 9-15 Girl Scout Week and March as Disability Awareness Month.

The city of Beaufort is making clear its support of a 1 percent sales tax that would raise additional revenue and provide property-tax relief.

City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the tax at its meeting Tuesday. The tax is one of two being considered by Beaufort County as part of a fall referendum.

Bluffton approved a similar resolution Tuesday, and Port Royal is expected to vote on one Wednesday.

Municipal leaders from Bluffton, Port Royal and Beaufort met last week to discuss the tax, as well as a sales tax to raise money for capital projects, which the county also is considering.

The former would be a 1 percent sales tax to raise more revenue for municipalities and the county in exchange for property-tax relief for residents. The latter would also be a 1 percent sales tax, but it would be used to pay for specific projects and end when the money for those projects has been raised.

Either tax would have to be approved by county voters in a referendum.

County Council is expected to vote March 24 on whether to put the tax proposals on the ballot in the fall general election. The council's Governmental Committee voted Tuesday to pass the decision along to the full council.

Neither Tuesday's vote nor the full council's vote are an endorsement of the taxes, merely a decision to let voters decide, according to County Councilman Jerry Stewart.

"The municipalities have asked us to do this, and we owe it to our partners to do this," County Councilman Brian Flewelling added.

"Council has once, twice, this would be the third time, gone on record in support of local-option sales tax," Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

City Councilman Mike Sutton said the tax is one of the only ways residents will see a rollback on their taxes. By state law, localities that adopt the tax must use 70 percent of proceeds to reduce property taxes.

Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. bristled at the notion that city government should check spending rather than implement a new tax.

"We maintain austerity whenever we can, in cutting budgets and keeping (spending) within reason," he said. "We don't spend money just to spend it. We don't spend money frivolously."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at

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