County Council Creates ‘Penny Tax’ Commission

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

At their March 5 meeting, Darlington County Council took the first step toward preparing a ‘penny tax’ referendum by establishing a Capital Project Sales Tax (CPST) Commission. This body would draft the referendum county voters could see on their November general election ballots, proposing the levy of a one-cent sales tax to finance construction of a new county courthouse.

By unanimously approving Resolution 687 Council voted to create a commission, which will include three representatives appointed by municipalities and three representatives appointed by County Council. If the municipalities have not submitted their chosen appointees within thirty days of this resolution’s adoption, the county will choose for them. Due to dual office holding restrictions, elected officials are not eligible to serve on the CPST Commission.

Members of the commission will review proposals for capital projects within the county – such as new judicial and administrative facilities – and compose a referendum for Council to review. Should Council choose to adopt a one percent sales tax, they would be required to draft an ordinance to that effect and pass three readings and a public hearing. Then the Darlington County Election Commission would place the referendum on the November, 2018 general election ballot for registered county voters to approve or reject.

Also at this meeting, former City of Darlington Mayor Ronnie Ward addressed concerns that a new courthouse/admin facility might be built outside the county seat, which is Darlington. Ward stressed the importance of the courthouse to businesses on the Public Square, noting that courthouse traffic comprises a large share of the trade done by downtown Darlington restaurants and retailers. He warned that relocating the judicial or administrative functions “two or three miles away for convenience” could do “immeasurable harm” to the city.

“Darlington has a courthouse; that is its reason for existing. We don’t have a Fortune 500 company in the midst of our city. We don’t have a college, we don’t have a Governor’s School, we don’t have a Byerly Foundation. We’ve got the Darlington courthouse, which is extremely important to our lives and to our welfare,” said Ward. “It is our heartbeat…and it’s critically important that it stays.”

Further, Ward said he felt certain that there were no members of County Council who would knowingly vote to damage any of the county’s municipalities.

“I know you’re trying to do what’s best for the county, but the health of its municipalities is extremely important. And if you do anything that’s going to harm those businesses in those towns, keep them from growing their quality of life and economic welfare, I think that would be a terrible thing,” said Ward.

On the regular agenda, Council held a public hearing and second reading for Ordinance 18-01, adopting the state’s penalties for littering. This measure would mandate a minimum $100 fine for a misdemeanor first conviction (maximum penalty is $200), and require those with a second littering conviction to also complete 20 hours of community service. Those convicted will also pay $25 in court costs.

Council also voted to sell .082 acres located at the Darlington Library to SC DOT to allow for the construction of a new US-52 bridge. The sold property includes 1,775 feet of asphalt, 250 linear feet of curbing, and seven dogwood trees planted on Library property in 2015 by the City of Darlington. The bridge project will include a new 40-foot right-of-way along US-52 Business (North Main Street), a transitional right-of-way at the intersection of Main and North Streets, and a new 45-foot right-of-way along North Street frontage. The property was sold for $11,029.

Author: Duane Childers

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