Beaufort County residents vote to strike down SPLOST penny tax

Your Local Election HQ

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — Residents in Beaufort County voted to strike down the SPLOST penny sales tax, adding an extra one percent tax at stores. Thirty-two South Carolina counties have approved similar penny taxes.

The question was, should Beaufort County institute a new one percent sales tax increase, most of which — 79% — would go back to residents in the form of a property tax rebate.

Municipalities said they needed the other 21% for smaller projects, like sidewalks, park renovations and stormwater updates. But there were questions about lower-income voters who did not own property and the extra they might have to pay.

Apparently, those questions were enough voters had enough questions to vote this down by a significant margin. With 40% of the ballots counted, no is winning by a 72% to 28% margin.

Local leaders say they are disappointed but not surprised.

“I don’t think people understood,” says Beaufort County Council Chairman Joe Passiment. “Several people understood the nature of why they had to be done this year. So, that became a problem.”

“It was to find a way to give tax relief to residents, to businesses, to non-residents,” Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said. “And you know, they spoke. I wanted to educate, make their own decision. I don’t think it was accurately depicted. That upsets me greatly.”

Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray said if the penny tax had passed, the nearly $1 million a year that Beaufort expects to get from the tax increase would have gone toward projects like sidewalks, stormwater issues and park improvements. Murray says these projects aren’t big enough for state or federal grants and can slip through the cracks without some form of funding.

“At least 71% of every penny collected goes directly back into property taxpayers’ hands,” said Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray Monday. “So if you own a house, a commercial building, a car, a boat, a motor home, an airplane — any of those things — you get a rebate in your property tax bill.”

“For a lot of taxpayers, you will actually get more back than you will pay in,” Murray said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories