Hilton Head Council members say November is too soon for sales tax proposal

dburley@islandpacket.comMay 9, 2014 

Hilton Head Island officials think November is coming too soon.

That's when a proposed 1 percent sales tax could go before voters. Some Town Council members, however, want more time to examine the projects such a tax might pay for.

"I view it as a tax looking for a cause," Councilman Bill Harkins said Friday. "I don't want to be a part of it."

That doesn't mean island officials don't have improvements in mind.

Their list includes $56 million worth of projects. Chief among them is providing sewer service to neighborhoods near Gumtree Road and re-building the bridges to and from the island. The bridge effort alone would cost an estimated $23.5 million, according to town documents.

Town officials will present their list to the Capital Project Sales Tax Commission at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Whale Branch Early College High School.

The commission has until the beginning of June to create a list of projects from across the county. Suggestions by the town of Bluffton and Beaufort County have centered on road improvements, including the realignment of a 2.5-mile stretch of Bluffton Parkway.

The city of Beaufort and the town of Port Royal also plan to present their lists this month.

All of the proposals must be approved by County Council by Aug. 15 if the sales tax measure is to appear on the November ballot.

It's that short turn-around time that has island officials worried.

"There's a lot not to like about this," Mayor Drew Laughlin said during Town Council meeting Tuesday. "I think the whole thing is being rushed, and the whole conversation (is) backwards."

Commission member Scott Richardson, who was appointed to the panel by Town Council, said the time frame to come up with projects shouldn't be an issue since many have been discussed for years.

"Do we need a road or do we not need a road?" he asked. "Hardly any of this stuff is new."

He argued the sales tax was a "painless" way to pay for improvements.

"It's not going to make anybody push away from the table, and it's a heck of a way to improve the county," he said.

Voters approved a similar sales tax increase in 2006 to raise money for road upgrades, including widening U.S. 278 and S.C. 170 in southern Beaufort County and building a new J.E. McTeer Bridge in the northern county. That 1 percent tax expired in 2012.

The current proposal would expire after eight years or when all the projects are paid in full.

Harkins maintains the tax is regressive -- it applies the same to all consumers, consequently hitting the poor harder.

He'd rather each municipality have more time to study the projects it wants funded. He'd also like the public to have more input.

It's an election year for him, Laughlin, and council members George Williams and Kim Likins. Such a referendum could sway voters, he said.

"I think we're all by association splashed with this," he said.

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

Related content:

Town of Hilton Head Island candidate projects

  • William Hilton Parkway/Squire Pope Road Intersection Improvements
    • West Bound through lane - $0.5M
  • Multi-Use Pathways - $6.75M
    • William Hilton Parkway EB -Shelter Cove to Mathews Drive - $1.2M
    • William Hilton Parkway EB - Gardner Drive to Jarvis Park - $0.9M
    • William Hilton Parkway WB - Gumtree Road to Squire Pope Road - $0.55M
    • William Hilton Parkway EB - Village at Wexford to Arrow Road - $0.2M
    • William Hilton Parkway EB - Jarvis Park to Graves Bridge $1.91M
    • Singleton Beach Road - $0.35M
    • William Hilton Parkway WB - Squire Pope Road to Graves Bridge - $1.55M
  • Island Recreation Center Expansion - $7.0M
    • Design Development and permitting all phases - $0.75M
    • New pool storage building, toilets/showers/changing rooms - $0.4M
    • Renovation of existing toilets/showers/changing rooms - $0.22M
    • New gymnasium, parking, relocation of 3 basketball courts - $4.6M
    • Playground and ROTC drill pad for BCSD as a result of displacement - $0.1M
    • Office and class room renovations in existing building, replacement of wood floor and bleachers in existing gym - $0.39M
    • New enclosure for old pool, refurbish pool and pool deck - $0.375M
    • New lighting for existing field - $0.17M
  • US 278 Hilton Head Island Entry Corridor Improvements - Bluffton Parkway Phase 5A to Squire Pope Road - $23.5M
    • intersection and access improvements - Jenkins Island, Hog Island, Pinckney Island $8.5M
    • concept development, analysis, design, permitting - causeway improvements, replacement of Bowers and Graves Bridges potential roadway expansion and realignment - $15M
  • Arts Center of the Carolinas Rehabilitation/Restoration -$5M
    • Deferred maintenance - $4.0M
    • Future needs and studies - $1.0M
  • Roadway Resurfacing and paving- SCDOT and Town owned roads - $3M
    • Lawton Beach Subdivision (South Forest Beach) - $1M
    • Lemoyne Avenue - $250k
    • Indigo Run Drive - $250k
    • Dunnagan's Alley - $250k
    • Main Street South - $150k
    • Pope Avenue
    • Wild Horse Road
    • Palmetto Bay Road
    • Union Cemetery Road
    • Spanish Wells Road
    • Office Way
    • Dillon Road
  • Recreation Facility Rehabilitation/Restoration - Crossings, Chaplin and Barker Field - $5M
  • William Hilton Parkway /Shelter Cove Town Center - roadway, pedestrian and bicycle connectivity improvements - $1M
    • William Hilton Parkway at Shelter Cove Lane (3 locations) - $1M
  • Ward One Sewer Projects - $2M
    • Gumtree Project - $1M
    • Various Ward One service projects - $1M
  • Fire Station 2 (Sea Pines) Replacement $2.85M
    • Design - $150K
    • Construction (including temporary quarters) - $2.7M

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