Would you be willing to pay an extra penny for every dollar you spend when you shop at the mall if it meant providing Beaufort County funding for several dozen infrastructure projects?
County residents will have an opportunity to answer that question in the voting booth this November.
The Beaufort County Council voted unanimously Monday night in favor of a ballot referendum that, if supported by voters Nov. 8, would add a penny of sales tax to every dollar spent in the county.
County officials estimate the 1 percent increase to yield $120 million in revenue over four years to be used for capital improvement projects.
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Those projects — determined after months of debate and scrutiny by the county’s Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission — include, countywide roadway improvements, a parking garage in Beaufort, and new Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office communications equipment.
The commission broke the projects into four categories: public safety, quality of life, economic development and environmental impact.
Beaufort County Councilman Stu Rodman said Monday that he recently analyzed the projects “and sorted them by geography and category.”
The projects “seemed to be quite balanced,” he said. “I think we are good to go.”
The County Council quashed a similar capital sales tax referendum proposal in 2014.
Despite the unanimous approval Monday night, the idea of adding an additional tax did not always sit well with members of the council.
Earlier this month, Councilwoman Cynthia Bensch called some of the infrastructure projects “pure pork.”
But Councilman Bill McBride said after the vote Monday that he thinks “a lot of the (unnecessary) projects were cut out (of the final projects list), and I was glad to have them deleted from the proposal.”
He said he plans to support the referendum when it comes time to cast his vote as a private citizen.
Whether a majority of his fellow Beaufort County voters will follow suit, McBride was unsure.
“We will have to see what happens, but I think it has a pretty decent chance,” he said regarding the passage of the referendum.
Voters also will have a chance to weigh in on another 1 percent sales tax increase proposed by the Beaufort County School District during the November election.
Revenues from that tax hike are expected to generate about $282 million over the course of 10 years for the construction of new schools and other capital projects.
In addition to two potential sales tax increases, the county residents will be paying more in property taxes due to expenditures that are expected to outpace revenues in the 2017 fiscal year, which begins Friday.
The Beaufort County School Board budget, which was also approved Monday by the County Council, comes with a tax hike as well.