Times Examiner Facebook Logo

Sunday, May 26, 2024 - 08:11 PM


First Published in 1994


Greenville County Pickpocketing 91039741

That is the estimated multi-billion-dollar question that remains to be answered. For review our County Council has for many years budgeted approximately $12 million a year for the roads program. This is in addition to the public works and engineering departments. However, they have for years only been using a portion of that money each year for actual road repair. Instead, they take portions to pay down debt, buy equipment, and do other “road related” items. (At the March 4, 2024. Committee of the Whole meeting, Chairman Tripp once again tried to make everyone believe the County is spending the full $12 million on roads. Once again, he shows us he hasn’t read this year’s budget or any other budget. This year the amount is only $11 million, and they are only actually going to spend 55% of the $11 million on fixing roads.)

Because new companies are moving here frequently (and getting tax breaks to do so) and bringing employees with them, our roads are falling into even worse repair than the normal wear and tear. There have also been issues with the South Carolina DOT not properly using their funds to keep up state and federal roads in the County. And one more thing we need to add to the mix is the questions of workmanship on the part of the companies doing the road work. The roads here are not built to last more than about 10 years. That is not long considering our weather is very moderate here with little ice and snow.

So, now our County Council has decided that in addition to last year’s property tax increase and the increase of the road fee from $10 to $25 per bill, they now need to increase our sales tax to “pay for roads.” I intentionally used quotation marks around “pay for roads” because a careful review of their proposals and their history leaves me with a lot of doubts.

There are two directions they could go.

First option: they could do a sales tax for transportation only. This would be up to 1% and could only be used on transportation related items: highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit systems, greenbelts, and other transportation-related projects facilities including, but not limited to, drainage facilities relating to the highways, roads, streets, bridges, and other transportation-related projects; (SC Law: Title 4, Chapter 37, Section 4-37-30 (i)).

This tax could be in place for as much as 25 years but would be limited to the amount of money needed to fund the projects and amounts listed on the ballot. We would have to vote on this funding by groups of projects under a single price tag. These projects would be decided by the County Council. This option does at this time tax groceries unless they are purchased with food stamps.

Second option: they could do a Capital Projects Sales Tax. This would be a 1% sales tax and could be used on a host of items beyond just transportation: (a) highways, roads, streets, bridges, and public parking garages and related facilities; (b) courthouses, administration buildings, civic centers, hospitals, emergency medical facilities, police stations, fire stations, jails, correctional facilities, detention facilities, libraries, coliseums, educational facilities under the direction of an area commission for technical education, any combination of these projects; (c) cultural, recreational, or historic facilities, or any combination of these facilities; (d) water, sewer, or water and sewer projects; (e) flood control projects and stormwater management facilities; (f) beach access and beach renourishment; (d) dredging, dewatering, and constructing spoil sites, disposing of spoil materials, and other matters directly related to the act of dredging; (SC Law: Title 4, Chapter 10, Article 3, Section 4-10-330 (1)).

This tax could be in place for a maximum of 8 years but would be limited to the amount of money needed to fund projects. This option does not tax any groceries at all.

The projects are picked by a committee of 6 individuals – 3 appointed by the County Council, 1 appointed by the City of Greenville, and 2 will be residents from the other municipalities in the County. There is no indication of who will pick these last 2 members or which municipalities they will come from. According to the discussion last night, there are no qualifications to be on the commission. Anyone can be on it. The top 3 vote getters by the County Council will be the members that represent the County as a whole. The commission members will be charged with “picking” the projects to be funded and writing the referendum and getting the list to the County Council for them to approve by ordinance this summer.

The approximate timeline for the committee to meet is to start no later than April 8, 2024, and have their work completed and turned into the County Council by May 31, 2024. This is an extremely tight timeline of only 54 days. It was admitted in the March 4, 2024, COW meeting that the list is already started.

The vote in November for this option would be for the entire package as a whole and not by groups of projects and amounts.

Dan Tripp and the County Administration is pushing for the Capital Projects Sales Tax. Why? A review of the list of items that could be funded means that they could fund the following pet projects that as of yet they have been unable to fund: a new downtown Greenville Convention Center, new art museums in downtown Greenville, the Triumph Soccer Stadium complex, pay-off Bon Secours Arena Debt, pay-off I-185 debt, do something with the Greenville Convention Center, and fix Conestee Dam. Then there is the City of Greenville’s laundry list of road changes they want to make – a traffic circle at Wade Hampton Boulevard and Church Street, narrowing and adding bike lanes to Wade Hampton Boulevard, changing N. Pleasantburg Drive, changing Woodruff Road, and changing Laurens Road. Some of these were mentioned in a March 1, 2024, Greenville New Online article. Will they throw in more Woodruff Road by-passes? Then there are pedestrian bridges and Swamp Rabbit Trail expansions that have been discussed over the years.

The project possibilities are endless under this proposal. They will start the list with some road repairs hoping that people will stop reading at the beginning of the list and not read the whole thing. If any of the above were not true, then there would be no reason to do the Capital Projects Tax. They would just do the transportation sales tax, which could end as soon as enough money was collected to fund each individual project we voted yes on, and it would only fund transportation projects. Our County Council would keep control of the projects.

Tonight, March 5, 2024, your Greenville County Council will vote on a resolution to set up the commission and proceed with the Capital Projects Sales Tax. If they do their normal routine, it will be by a voice vote instead of a roll call vote. Unfortunately, you will have no say in which choice, if any, you want at this point. We are at their mercy.

Here are some additional questions that need to be addressed:

1. How are the members for the commission from the other 2 municipalities going to be chosen? Who gets to decide which two of the five cities get to be represented and then who inside of the city limits will be on the commission?

2. Who all actually created the list and assigned the dollar amounts? Please give us names, positions, and all research showing the necessity for the individual projects.

3. Do we really need either one of these options or should we just be better stewards of the money we have now first?

4. Why now? Why not last year? Why not next year after the new Council is seated?

5. Why are we going to pay even more towards state and federal roads when the state has a gigantic surplus of money?

Please note the public hearing for Project Cranberry Sauce - Enersys and supposedly the third reading (depending on tonight’s vote) has been moved to March 19.