The ‘penny tax’ passed in Beaufort County’s midterm elections. Here’s what that means
Get out your pennies, Beaufort County.
Voters passed the one percent transportation tax in November, and the tax collection will begin Wednesday, May 1.
The tax will be in place for four years or until the S.C. Department of Revenue collects $120 million, according to county informational materials.
Here are four things to know about the new tax:
The money will be divided among three projects
Three county projects will be funded by the transportation tax:
- $80 million for the Hilton Head Island U.S. 278 corridor project — this multi-year project will replace at least one span of the Hilton Head bridge and aim to alleviate traffic congestion between Moss Creek and Squire Pope Road.
- $30 million for the Lady’s Island corridor project, which will add traffic lights and improve traffic flow between the Woods Memorial Bridge and the Chowan Creek Bridge.
- $10 million for county-wide sidewalk and pathway improvements — this includes pathways along Burnt Church Road in Bluffton, Laurel Bay Road in Beaufort and 22 other locations.
S.C. Department of Revenue will collect the tax from businesses
Local businesses will collect the tax and turn it over to SCDOR.
Each quarter, the department will write a check to Beaufort County for the revenue from the taxes, according to the county’s informational materials.
Some purchases will be exempt from the tax
SCDOR has not released a full exemption list for Beaufort County yet, but prescriptions and other types of medication are often exempt from county-wide transportation taxes, according to the SCDOR website.
County leaders also estimate that about half of the $120 million raised by the tax will be paid by tourists.
Tax money will be used as ‘leverage’ on Hilton Head
Hilton Head’s U.S. 278 corridor project is estimated to cost around $240 million, which means it needs funding from other sources to move forward.
According to town and county leaders, the project will be funded as follows:
- $80 million from the transportation tax
- $40 million from the S.C. Department of Transportation for bridge replacement
- $120 million from the State Infrastructure Bank
In order for that funding to come from the State Infrastructure Bank, Hilton Head must apply and compete with other cities such as Charleston for the funds.
Josh Gruber, the assistant town manager on Hilton Head, said in March he’s confident that the local participation through the transportation tax will make the island’s application stand out.
However, he said if the application is denied, SCDOT will retain the $40 million in bridge replacement funds to start replacing the first eastbound span of the Hilton Head bridge, which runs over Mackay’s Creek and was first built in 1956.