A closer look: Penny sales tax

November 4, 2012 

How it works

The additional penny-on-the-dollar tax, to 8 cents on the dollar, would apply in all areas of Richland County.

It would be charged on most purchases, including groceries. Among the exceptions are food-stamp purchases, prescription drugs and school books.

Collections would begin May 1, 2013.

By law, the tax would end in 22 years or once it generated $1.07 billion, whichever came first.

If voters approve the tax Tuesday, Columbia City Council pledged to remove the 2-percent franchise fee it charges city residents on their utility bills; the fee now helps fund the bus system. Richland County Council already removed the yearly transit fee appearing on property-tax bills.

The last time the sales tax was increased was in June 2007, by the state.

How the tax breaks down

$656 million (63 percent) to widen and improve roads

$301 million (29 percent) to expand bus service

$81 million (8 percent) to build sidewalks, bike lanes and walking trails through natural areas

How it appears on the ballot

Two questions on a proposed penny sales for transportation will appear on Richland County ballots Tuesday.

Voters should cast ballots on both questions.

Question 1 asks voters whether to raise the sales tax in Richland County to improve roads and to expand the bus system and pedestrian pathways. The tax would be in effect for 22 years or until it generates $1.07 billion, whichever comes first.

• A “yes” vote means the voter is in favor of increasing the sales tax.

• A “no” vote means the voter is against increasing the sales tax.

Question 2 would allow the county to borrow money so it could start work on the projects right away. Then, the county would repay the bonds with proceeds from the sales tax. The county is asking voters for permission to borrow up to $450 million.

• A “yes” vote means the voter is in favor of allowing the loan.

• A “no” vote means the voter does not want the county to borrow the money.

If voters approve the tax but not the bonds, the projects would be done largely on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.

If voters approve the bonds but not the tax, that would be irrelevant.

QUESTION 1

I approve a special sales and use tax in the amount of one percent (1%) to be imposed in Richland County, South Carolina (the “County”) for not more than twenty-two (22) years, or until a total of $1,070,000,000 in sales tax revenue has been collected, whichever occurs first. The sales tax revenue will be used to pay the costs of administrative expenses and the following projects:

Project: 1: Improvements to highways, roads (paved and unpaved), streets, intersections, and bridges including related drainage system improvements.

Amount: $656,020,644

Project 2: Continued operation of mass transit services provided by Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority including implementation of near, mid and long-term service improvements.

Amount: $300,991,000

Project 3: Improvements to pedestrian sidewalks, bike paths, intersections and greenways.

Amount: $80,888,356

YES

NO

Instructions to Voters: All qualified electors desiring to vote in favor of levying the special sales and use tax shall vote YES and

All qualified electors opposed to levying the special sales and use tax shall vote NO

QUESTION 2

I approve the issuance of not exceeding $450,000,000 of general obligation bonds of Richland County, payable from the special sales and use tax described in Question 1 above, maturing over a period not to exceed twenty-two (22) years, to fund projects from among the categories described in Question 1 above.

YES

NO

Instructions to Voters: All qualified electors desiring to vote in favor of the issuance of bonds for the stated purposes shall vote YES and

All qualified electors opposed to the issuance of bonds for the stated purposes shall vote NO

SOURCE: Richland County

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