Citizens Oppose Sales Tax
Increase At Public Hearing
 
  Most of the citizens speaking at a Country Council public hearing Mon., July 14, opposed a Nov. referendum where citizens would vote on whether or not to impose an additional one cent sales tax for capital improvement projects. 
  County Council Chairman Don Hancock explained the purpose of the referendum.
  The state passed the Capital Project Sales Tax Act, which allows citizens in counties to vote on adding the extra penny. County Council approved a resolution creating a Capital Project Sales Tax Commission in Dec. 2013.
Council appointed three members to the commission, the Town of Saluda two, and the Town of Ridge Spring one.
  The projects recommended by the commission are:
  Building a firefighter training facility in the county at a cost of $655,000.
  The second project would provide funds  to the County Water and Sewer Authority for waterline improvement in the lake area and on Hwy. 378 at a cost of $2.8 million.
  The third project would be $1.75 million improvement to the wastewater treatment plant in the Town of Saluda
  Fourth will be replacement of 25 fire hydrants,  sewer system improvements, and painting the water tank in the Town of Ridge Spring, at a cost of $900,000.
  Under the law, all funds most go to capital improvements and could be for anything from roads to recreation.
  Jack Atkinson was the first speak
  “As Ronald Reagan said, ‘Here we go again,’ Atkinson said.
    “Referendums for bond revenue or tax increases are not popular issues. They are not initiated by or led by the citizens. A few government officials, department heads, bureau chiefs, or their friends decide there are things they need or want and can get only with a tax increase. So a ‘Blue Ribbon Committee’ is appointed to work out the details and ‘Let the people vote.’
  “Now, I know most of the good people who are working on this referendum. They are well meaning and have done their job to the best of their abilities but you know what? No one has asked me, nor has anyone mentioned to me what or how this proposed tax increase will benefit the citizens. We have just increased our school tax and our county budget tax, and now some more! When taxes go up the tax payor’s standard of living goes down.”
  Atkinson went on to say, “Why don’t we appoint a committee to find ways to reduce taxes by lowering spending through consolidation of services? I particularly dislike tax increase by referendum. Please understand that I believe you all on this council do an excellent and sometimes very difficult job. I do not envy you at budget time nor would l want to make the decisions that you must make as our elected council. But, isn’t that your job? Bear the burden, do the research and thinking required to make important policy decisions? And there is not a more important and critical decision that you can make than the taking of our money by taxation and spending it; hopefully remembering where it came from.
“If bad policy is enacted by public referendum, and it is known to be bad policy by its aftereffects, then the politicians and the stakeholders responsible for the referendum, and who campaigned for it will shift the blame to the citizens who voted for it. I would have absolutely no recourse against those citizens because I am one of them.   In closing let me say that if you approve this referendum being placed on the ballot, I can only surmise that you as a council approve of the tax increase. I am already not happy with the upcoming 2.22 percent county tax and 2.93 percent school tax increase so a possible on percent  increase in everything I buy or use, including utilities will be a bitter pill to swallow. Please, make the right decision; vote NO.”
  Marvin Gootee, one of Saluda County Silver Haired Legislators, also spoke in opposition”
  “The citizens have not adequately been informed of the creation of the committee charged with fashioning this proposal, the members appointed to the task, the process utilized in arriving at the projects cited, the means and methods of obtaining input to the process, the existence of public meeting or other forums to solicit our input, any final documentation of the projects proposed, or any research, reports, diagrams, or other specifics that will allow us to determine what it is that you wish to spend over $6 million dollars on. To date, this proposal has not even been published in the local paper or posted to the county website until the last few days and, even then, without a list of the projects proposed specific projects
  Gootee said the projects represent a duplication of services, since taxpayer already pay millage for the fire service, and people on the waterlines pay user fees.
  He also said the tax would have an adverse impact on vulnerable populations.
  “The sales tax is known as a regressive tax for which those least able to pay are made to pay a much large proportionate share of their income than those of greater means, which would include large businesses and wealthy individuals for which property taxes and user fees provide for a greater distribution of impact proportionate to wealth and usage.
  “Seniors, the handicapped, people on fixed incomes such as the retired, and young families will be more adversely affected at a time when their income has been under near constant assault from many quarters - no estimates of the financial impact on these groups has been provided by anyone but using information from other communities utilizing this tax, it would probably be in the hundreds of dollars.”
  James Holloway questioned if the water project benefited the minority citizens of the county.
  Charles S. Daniel asked if there were any minority members of the commission. Hancock said there were none.
  Daniel said that did not seem to be a fair representation.
  Brian Derrick, Ridge Spring’s representative on the commission, said the commission explored many areas of the county for possible installation of waterlines, and settled on the lake area where people said they would sign up for the water.
  Council will vote on whether to put the referendum on the November ballot at the August 11 meeting.
  Council unanimously approved an agreement between the county and School District One to provided two Resources officers. The two agencies will split the cost of salary and benefits.
 Councilman Jacob Schumpert said the resource officers were originally funded by grants, but the grants ran out, leaving funding to the county and schools.
  “We know in these times, the officers are needed.”
  Kristi Collins was reappointed to the Saluda Behavioral Health System board and Billie S. Starling was appointed to the County Library Board.
  At the beginning of the meeting, Schumpert urged citizens of visit the Adams Gift Shop that has reopened on the Newberry Hwy., and features items form the 50s, 60s and 70s.
  Councilwoman Gwen Shealy expressed congratulations to King Academy graduate Kyle Carpenter for being awarded the Medal of Honor last month.
  Councilman William Pugh conveyed sympathy to the family of Riverside Community Development Corporation member James Bosket on his death over the weekend.