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The Watch


Sales Tax

Charleston County residents approved a half-cent increase in the sales tax in a referendum in 2004. It was the third referendum on the issue, Citizens rejected the tax in the first referendum, but although they approved it in the second, the Courts ruled against it because of the language of the ballot papers. The tax will raise $1.3 billion over its estimated 25 year life. The funds are to be spent only on greenbelts and transportation, with allocations of 17% and 83% respectively. Although it was not mentioned in the 3rd referendum, County Council members indicated that 18% of funds would go to CARTA and would come from the Transportation allocation. The Greenbelt and Transportation Advisory Boards were created to provide guidance to Council on spending.

July 19, 2006

County Council Meeting July 18
Agrees to take over CARTA debt obligation
18% sales- tax cap to apply only over long term
Warwick Jones

As we expected, the County will take on the burden of CARTA's debt. However, it will not need to tack on $6 million to the planned bond issue for transportation and greenbelts. To fund the next payment that is due to CARTA's bankers of $1.1 million, it will draw on funds that already have been budgeted for transportation from the sales tax but which have not been used. Although Council committed to making the remaining payments on CARTA's debt, there was no decision as from where they will be drawn, except that they will be derived from the half-cent sales tax.

Continue reading "County Council Meeting July 18"

Posted by Warwick Jones at 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2006

County Council Meeting July 13
To take over CARTA's debt burden?
Bond issue for Transportation to be raised by $6 million
Warwick Jones

It's not signed and sealed yet. But most likely on Tuesday night, County Council will take an important step to pull out CARTA from under its debt burden. And it will do this by tacking on $6 million to the transportation bond issue that voters will be asked to approve in a referendum at the end of this year.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 05:28 PM

June 10, 2005

Transportation Advisory Board Meeting June 8
Divisions appearing already
What is the role of the Board?
Marc Knapp

The Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) had it second meeting on Wednesday and already divisions are beginning to occur. The first was minor perhaps. One of the members read a note that had been sent to the Board asking that political differences be set aside and that only the common interest of the County should be considered. This was greeted by nodding heads and solemn affirmation. Perhaps only a minute or so thereafter when the subject of proxies was being discussed, Board member Pena, representing the City of Charleston adamantly proclaimed the need that not only should there be proxy voting, but that a board member should have the right to appoint a person to attend Board meetings if the member were indisposed.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005

Greenbelt Advisory Board - June 1 meeting
Board searches to define "Greenbelt"
Seeks to discuss its role and that of the proposed Conservation Bank
Warwick Jones, Editor

As a member of the public said, there was not much action at yesterday's meeting. Most of the time was taken up with presentations by conservation groups and the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC). In varying degree, they described their activities and gave their views as to how the sales tax fund should be dispersed in relation to "greenbelts". But in deference to the member of the public, too much action should not be expected at this early stage. The Board is feeling its way and there are many voids to be filled in defining its role. And the biggest void may well be the definition of "greenbelt". It was to help the GAB define the word that the conservation groups were invited to make presentations. There will be more presentations at the next meeting scheduled for June 15, at 3pm at County Council Offices in North Charleston.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2005

County Council Meeting May 17
What a difference a few days make
CARTA to receive an extra $1 million. Conservation Bank to go back to Finance Committee for consideration
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

As is usual, much of the agenda on last night's meeting received rubber stamp approval. After all, most of it had been considered and approved by the Finance Committee. What was surprising was the decision to raise the allocation of sales tax proceeds for Fiscal 2006 to CARTA. The Finance Committee at its meeting last week stated that it would keep the allocation to 18% of the sales tax proceeds, a ratio that it fixed in the 2002 referendum paper. Committee members last week expressed fear that many voters would be incensed if CARTA were to receive more than this allocation particularly as the inclusion of CARTA as a recipient of sales tax funds was contentious.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2005

Half-Cent Sales Tax - An uncertain direction
Cause for Concern
Warwick Jones, Editor

There is no doubt that County Council and the Cities spent a lot of time convincing voters of the need for the half-cent sales tax. Observing County Council meetings over the last few weeks it is becoming obvious that Council should have spent more time dealing with how the tax was spent. There is cause for concern.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:41 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2005

Charleston County May 12
Sales Tax budget approved for 2006
Spending on roads to accelerate, CARTA's request for larger allocation rejected
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

The Finance Committee yesterday considered the proposed Fiscal 2006 budget for the half-cent sales tax. Collection of the tax did not begin until the beginning of this month but it will not be until the fiscal year beginning July 1 that the county actually receives the tax. The County expects to generate $35.16 million in revenue from the tax in the fiscal year and has allocated $22.5 million or 65% of the total for Transportation. A breakdown of the allocation can be seen by pressing here

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2005

County Council Meeting May 10
Finance Committee ponders some more over sales tax use
Concern over citizens' reaction
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

As anticipated, the County Administrator, Roland Windham made his presentation to the Finance Committee yesterday on the use of the sales tax proceeds. It really did not break any new ground. What the Committee was looking for was some guidance as to how much of the proceeds of the sales tax could be diverted to Public Works to fund projects already under consideration. Mr. Windham did not give a definitive answer nor was it his to give really. This was the responsibility of Mr. Joe Dawson the County Attorney. He stated at a meeting last week and again yesterday that in his opinion, virtually all the projects relating to roads and drainage - the major part of Public Works - would qualify for consideration

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2005

County Council - May 5
Finance Committee to consider using sales tax to free up funds
Will it be legal?
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

The Finance Committee is looking at a way to shift some public works funding to the half cent sales tax and free up funds for other purposes. The County Administrator Mr. Windham plans on making a presentation to the Committee next Tuesday as to the possibilities that are open to the Council. The possibility of shifting the funding was raised in budget sessions last week.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2005

County Council Meeting April 28
Could the new sales tax restrain property tax increases
Plan for Conservation Bank to be sent to G AB for consideration
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

It really wasn't on the Finance Committee agenda but it came up in discussion on the Fiscal year 2006 budget. Council member Scott suggested that consideration be given to shifting funding on some public works to the soon-to-be-collected half cent sales tax. He suggested that perhaps $4 million could be shifted but subsequent discussion suggested that even more might be possible. Property taxes amount to about $55 million for the County so the notional reduction on shifting $4 million would be about 8%.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2004

Sales tax increase - Forum held by League of Women Voters

Warwick Jones, Editor

The sales tax referendum was the subject to a two hour forum last night, hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Low Country Chapter of the American Society of Public Administration. Little new came out of the forum but the debate covered a wide range of issues and provided a full airing. There were 8 panelists, each of whom spoke for about 3 minutes. The three panelists for the tax were Leon Stavrinakis, Charleston County Councilman; Christine Nelson, CARTA Transit Administrator; and Brian Moody, Campaign Chair for Citizens for Community Improvement.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 06:22 PM

Half cent sales tax - A much more certain path

G. Robert George, P.L.S., P.E.
Councilmember, District 12
The City of Charleston

Almost two years ago to the day, I authored an article, "More certain path: A regional alliance to solve land-use, transit issues," published in the Post & Courier on October 22, 2002. Recent public debate, press coverage, and an intense personal interest in the upcoming one-half percent sales tax referendum prompted my review of the published article, my previous 2002 research materials, and current research sources. Surprisingly, the primary issues and concerns remain unchanged, albeit more defined in certain key aspects: Lack of specific accountability measures, absence of coordinated regional planning protocols, and questionable interpretations of specific requirements set forth in the Act- Title 4, Chapter 37 "Optional Methods for Financing Transportation Facilities," which establishes the taxing authority for transportation-related projects.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2004

County Council Meeting October 19
A Commission to be formed to oversee green space acquisition
Coastal Conservation League to oppose sales tax increase.
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

County Council took another small step forward in an attempt to win voter approval for the half cent sales tax. It agreed to set up a panel similar to the proposed Country Transport Commission (CTC), to guide and oversee proposals for spending in relation to green space. Is the move enough? We don't think so. Nor did the SC Coastal Conservation League.

Continue reading "County Council Meeting October 19"

Posted by Warwick Jones at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2004

What Green Space? Parks Surrounded by Subdivisions?

Lee Grayson
267 Saint Margaret St.
Is it just me, or does anyone suspect that Charleston County's vision of the future looks a lot like James Island? With over a billion dollars to spend on new road construction, the pressure to develop rural areas will be intense. Imagine Johns Island, Wadmalaw, or Awendaw, with their brand new highways, and their 800 acre county parks (proudly promoted as "greenspace") surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of suburban development. And even these parks wouldn't be sacrosanct. Does anyone remember the plan to extend Highway 30 through James Island County Park? I can imagine the real estate ad now- "Come live in the beautiful, new Tea Farm Estates, just minutes from Wadmalaw County Park, and the new Sea Island Connector..."

Posted by Warwick Jones at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2004

County Council Meeting October 5
Public Hearing on Sales Tax
Coastal Conservation League still opposes sales tax
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

The SC Coastal Conservation League opposed the proposed sales tax at the public hearing last night. The League has been outspoken in its criticism of the tax, in particular the lack of accountability in relation to the spending of the proceeds. Mr Eric Meyer who represented the League at the meeting stated:

Continue reading "County Council Meeting October 5"

Posted by Warwick Jones at 08:19 PM

October 04, 2004

Sales Tax Referendum - Why you should vote NO!

Warwick Jones, Editor

The sales tax referendum is only 4 weeks away. The City and County are now heating up their campaigns to yet again convince voters of a need for an increase in the sales tax. This will be the third attempt to raise the tax. The earlier attempts failed. In the case of the first, the tax increase was rejected at the polls, and in the second, because the vote was overturned by the Supreme Court who found fault with the wording of the ballot paper. Hopefully, this is the last time a vote is sought. But we cannot be certain. The Attorney General has questioned the legality of the wording and a legal challenge is very possible if the referendum is successful. And given the tenacity of the Councils, it is possible that a No vote may not deter them for seeking another referendum in 2008.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 05:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2004

CARTA - How many are truly hurting from the cutbacks?

Warwick Jones, Editor

Well the Sales Tax referendum is only 4 months away. We can expect the City and the Post & Courier to crank up shortly to begin a blitz with reasons why we need to vote for it.

CARTA, although only the recipient of probably less than 20% of the funds, will be the horse flogged the hardest. The City and the newspaper concentrated their efforts on CARTA in their earlier efforts to garner support for the tax. We expect they will attempt to do it again.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 07:08 PM | Comments (2)

Trying to make sense

Sarah Ashton
76 Pitt Street

Lets see... Support the ½ sales tax to purchase more green space. Develop Ansonborough Field.......Makes a lot of sense doesn't it?

Posted by Warwick Jones at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2004

County Council Public Hearing - July 8
Half-cent Sales Tax Increase and Property Tax Cap
Warning on wording of the referendum
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty

There was little new ground covered in the public hearings before the Charleston County Council on the ½ cent sales tax increase and the property tax cap. About half a dozen persons spoke on the sales tax referendum proposed by the county and all were in favor expect Mr. Joey Douan. Mr. Douan was responsible for initiating the successful action to undo the results of the last referendum. His speech was probably the most interesting, He stated that the governor had mandated that the wording in the referendum proposed for November be essentially that of the first. Yet, he noted, there were substantial differences.betwen the two. These he feared would be sufficient for another suit after the next referendum. We could be back here in 2 years confronting the same issues, he warned. Mr. Douan did not speak against the imposition of the tax and indeed stated that the county needed a public bus system. Considering his past opposition to the tax, it may be too much to read into this a newfound support for CARTA. He also expressed surprise that the County had not formed a citizens committee to help guide the county in implementing the sales tax or allocating the proceeds.

Continue reading "County Council Public Hearing - July 8"

Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:18 PM

June 18, 2004

County Finance Committee Jun 17.
No surprises with Sales Tax and CARTA Budget approved. Reassessment cap decision deferred
We speak with Howard Chapman of CARTA
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty

With the CARTA 2005 budget, the Sales Tax referendum and the Reassessment cap on the Committee's agenda, we were prepared for an interesting meeting. Considering the TV crews present, others were obviously expecting some excitement. Well, it all was a bit of a yawn. The CARTA budget was accepted without discussion, so was the Sales Tax referendum. And a decision on the Reassessment cap was deferred.

Continue reading "County Finance Committee Jun 17."

Posted by Warwick Jones at 01:45 PM

May 27, 2004

More and more taxes!

Submitted by Joe Lolli, 7867 Russell Street Drive, Edisto Island

The P&C's editorial on May 20,2004 reports that our local Charleston County School Board is contemplating following Greenville County's lead in plotting to violate our state's 8% debt cap. The paper's editorial suggests they follow the law and finance their $200 million bond over 25 years, which includes refinancing their existing $128 million construction bonds and funding the "surprise" $61 million short-fall. According to the editorial, if they did this in accordance with the law, the tax increase to a $100,000 homeowner would be $112 each year.

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Posted by Warwick Jones at 05:07 PM

May 19, 2004

Has Carta started working on Plan B?

Warwick Jones

The sales tax referendum is about 6 months away. We wonder whether CARTA has started working on Plan B yet? The bus company states that it is relying on the passage of the sales tax increase to obtain funding for services. As in the last referendum, only about 20% of the revenue from the sales tax will go to CARTA. The balance will go into that bottomless box with the pretty label called Roads, Parks and Greenspace. I doubt that voters will buy the spiel again but the Post & Courier lachrymose machine is starting to pump out the hardship stories again. Voters may be moved but they also will recognise the increased sales tax as a largely unnecessary drain on taxpayers resources. CARTA should start to consider real reform.

Posted by Warwick Jones at 09:08 PM