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KCC tables penny sales tax

Posted: July 12, 2012 5:09 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council effectively killed a county-wide penny sales tax proposal Tuesday set to be considered by voters this November. Members unanimously voted, 6-0, to table second reading of the plan, which according to County Attorney Ken Dubose pushed the timetable for approval by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) beyond a recommended deadline.

Council Vice Chairman Sammie Tucker Jr., who made the proposal in March, was absent.

DuBose said by pushing back the public hearing, as well as second and third reading of the ordinance to a later date, the proposal could, therefore, not be approved in time for the November ballot.

“The time table is such that as far as the November general election, this item would be dead,” DuBose said.

During earlier meetings, DuBose said such proposals can only be considered during general elections. Another attempt to pass a plan will have to wait until Nov. 2014.

Council Chairman Gene Wise who, along with Councilman C.R. Miles, voted against the proposal two weeks ago, said after Tuesday’s meeting that he actually wasn’t expecting council to table second reading.

“I was against it when we had first reading, but I was actually somewhat surprised it was tabled,” Wise said.

Councilman Jimmy Jones, who voted in favor on first reading, made the motion to table the proposal. He said Wednesday that he believed it was “the right thing to do for our community.”

“I’ve never really been in favor of this tax, personally, so, in the end, I never had a change of heart on it. I actually struggled with supporting it on first reading,” Jones said. “I think you had a 4 to 2 to 1 council vote. You had four councilmen that were for it, two that voted against it, and me, who personally was against it, but was willing to consider allowing the public to vote on it.”

Jones said he still believes any proposed tax should receive final approval by county voters.

“This was just not the right time. We needed to back off of this. I don’t think it stood a chance,” he said. “I work for the people and I’m going to listen to the people as long as it’s realistic. I had serious concerns about this moving forward.

“For instance, Elgin Town Council felt they weren’t properly communicated with and they even did a resolution expressing that. I had concerns that the city of Camden never really came on board. A lot of folks out in the community also felt that council gave an unnaturally short amount of time for the tax commission to come up with these projects. I’ve heard from so many people in east Camden that felt they were being left out as well.”

Councilman Tom Gardner said he would have liked to have seen the plan eventually approved, but felt the majority of council was moving in the direction of voting against it on second reading.

“I think we are so behind in recreation that we really needed to get something going. That’s why I was in favor of it. However, I had indications that other council members were not going to let it move forward,” Gardner said. “Unfortunately, there a lot of people out there that don’t think recreation is particularly important and don’t want to put any more money into it, but I think recreation is very important. It keeps kids off the streets, it provides exercise opportunities, as well as promoting economic development. There are a lot of important things that go on with recreation and we just haven’t been able to upgrade ours over the last several years. So we needed to find a way to pay for it and the penny sales tax was the only way to do so.” 

Gardner also praised the work of the tax commission, noting the group’s proposal could be revisited at a later time. 

Councilman Stephen Smoak said the tax commission couldn’t have developed a perfect plan to fit all the county’s needs, but still believed it was a solid proposal.

“I certainly supported the plan and felt the citizen commission worked hard to put it together. I think in a county our size, you could never put together a plan that completely pleases everyone, but I thought from an overall standpoint that the plan was good,” Smoak said. “It was actually a unanimous decision to support the idea of exploring the penny sales tax for recreation.”

During council’s March 27 meeting, Councilman C.R. Miles stepped out from council’s chambers before the vote to create the commission took place.

Smoak said despite the plan initially having unanimous support of council, it became apparent that the same wouldn’t be the case by second or third reading.

Councilmen Miles, Tucker and Bobby Gary could not be reached for comment by press time.

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