Anita Crone/South Strand News

Dredging for Georgetown port leads discussion on penny tax

Residents heard an update on the county's 1-cent sales tax

The tax was approved by voters in 2014 and expires on May 1. To date, more than $41 million has been raised by the tax, according to Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway. Officials had initially expected the penny tax to bring in around $28 million over the course of four years.

The referendum passed by voters was meant to fund five projects: dredging in Murrells Inlet and Georgetown Harbor; road repair and paving throughout the county; a new fire/police station in Andrews; a fire station for the Big Dam community; and work on the county's fire stations.

The Andrews fire station is yet to be complete, and it remains unknown whether the planned dredging for the harbor will ever happen. The penny tax was meant to cover only a portion -- $6 million -- of the cost of the dredging.

During the forum, Richard Butts was among those who expressed concern over the dredging in Georgetown.

“I was on board with the tax because I made my money off the port,” Butts said. “Why are we in such a hurry? Do we have to dredge to 27 feet? I didn’t ask for this money to see it spent for something else."

State law requires funds imposed by the sales tax be used to complete projects listed on the referendum approved by voters. Any excess funds the tax produces must also go toward finishing the approved projects. Only after all the projects are completed can an ordinance be passed to use the money for other purposes.

Georgetown City Councilman Rudolph Bradley also questioned the status of the money for the port.

“Is it drawing interest?,” he asked. “Are we saying that the Army Corps has to do the work?”

Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber said that “the driving force” behind the referendum was the port. “And once Liberty came to town, we all had more skin in the game," he said. Read full article.