Florence County voters to decide whether or not to ‘keep the penny’

Pee Dee

FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Voters in Florence County will face a referendum on their ballots as they head to the polls.

It’s all to decide whether or not the county will have another Capital Project Sales Tax after the current one expires in the spring. It’s a one percent sales tax, often called a penny sales tax.

“If we pass this referendum in November, what will happen is this penny will then continue for another seven years,” County Councilmember Jason Springs explained. “To me, it’s a no brainer.”

The referendum essentially extends the tax, and does not add another. Springs says he would refer to this one as the ‘People’s Penny.’

“We’re taking that penny and we’re putting it back into capital projects,” he said. “Things that otherwise, these small towns would never be able to accomplish. The small municipalities we got in Florence County, many of them just don’t have a tax base at all.”

The referendum outlines over 140 million dollars in projects for CPST III. the ballot question features an exhaustive list of slated projects. The list includes many upgrades to fire stations, improvements to roads and drainage, recreation projects and many others.

Also on the list is $800,000 for a new county morgue and coroner’s office.

“I was surprised to learn that Florence County did not have a morgue,” Springs said. “Anytime that someone lost a loved one and had to actually identify the body, we didn’t have a dignified space to do that.”

Springs said that’s had to happen at McLeod. A full list of designated projects can be found here on the ballot question.

“There is ample opportunity throughout the county to make sure that we had a project for essentially everybody,” Springs said.

Florence County voters approved Capital Project Sales Tax I in 2006. The tax, combined with a grant from the State Infrastructure Bank helped get millions of dollars for road work. Projects funded by Capital Sales Tax I include widenings of US 378, US 76, SC 51 and TV Road.

Voters approved the second capital sales tax in 2013, which went into place after the first expired. It garnered funding for a wide array of projects around the county. It had a focus on emergency agencies by getting funding for fire stations, sheriff’s office improvements, EMS stations and a new emergency radio system. Road projects also were funded.

Non-profit Forward Florence County has formed to advocate to ‘keep the penny’ for another round.

“It’s the easiest and the fairest way to be able to get things done for all the constituents here inside of Florence County,” co-chairman of the group and VP of Carolina Supply House William Schofield said. “With over a third of it being collected from non-residents of Florence County, it’s a no brainer.”

Schofield says this would help the county continue to move forward.

“My greatest fear is that it doesn’t pass, because I’m scared the only other option for the county and council is to raise our property taxes,” Schofield said. “It’s going to very quick for people to see the difference.”

Some still aren’t convinced they’ll be voting ‘yes.’

“I just don’t think that I’ve seen enough with all the other pennies they’ve collected,” county resident and worker Candy Rogers said. “And that’s why I’m against it.”

Count on News13 for updates.

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