The Laurens County Council has spent a great deal of time at its meetings so far in 2019 looking toward the future. At its March 26 meeting, council members will put part of it to a vote.
At council’s Feb. 26 meeting, Chairman Mike Pitts announced the upcoming vote on a penny sales tax for the county following a presentation by County Administrator Jon Caime that outlined the possibility of a capital project sales tax to fund an estimated $100 million in capital projects both needed and wanted in Laurens County.
If approved by council later this month, the capital project sales tax would be put to voters in the form of a referendum in the November 2020 General Election.
Caime has introduced his “Vision 2040” plan to council members in meetings earlier this year. “Vision 2040” could include several capital projects such as a new agricultural center, a complete renovation of the Historic Laurens County Courthouse and a new county library in Clinton.
A new EMS Headquarters and 911 call center have also been taken on as priorities by the council, but both projects are at a standstill, Caime said. A $4 million roof and HVAC project is under way at the county’s Hillcrest offices and judicial complex.
“How we’re going to pay for it, I don’t know,” Caime said before presenting the possibility of a capital project sales tax, like the ones in neighboring Greenwood and Newberry counties.
According to Caime, over $44 million can be raised over eight years if county voters choose the additional penny-on-the-dollar sales tax. The tax, which would expire after eight years barring another referendum, would be on top of a Local Option Sales Tax and hospitality tax already employed by the county.
Like those taxes, the capital projects tax would also be shared by visitors and tourists coming through the area and dilute the total tax burden on county residents. About 39,000 vehicles per day travel through Laurens County, Caime said.
Caime’s “Vision 2040” plan included a presentation from Laurens County Library Director Ann Szypulski outlining plans for a potential new county library in Clinton.
Like the other potential capital projects that have come before county council, the Clinton library plan received support from most council members.
“This is planning and visioning for moving the county forward,” said Pitts, whose district is in Clinton. “As an educator, I can say that a library is the best use of taxpayer funds around.”
Council Vice-Chairman Joe Wood said he couldn’t commit to supporting library in Clinton with other projects such as the EMS building and historic courthouse renovation still needing funding.
Caime reminded council members that some of the capital projects are “dreams” for the county as it moves toward 2040, but also told them that Laurens residents are spending enough in places like Simpsonville and Greenwood to pay for potential projects at home.
Credit card data reveals that the capital project taxes collected from Laurens County residents has helped Greenwood County pay for its needs, such as a $12.3 million library and an $8.5 million industrial park.