Lexington County panel starts to wade through requests for proposed penny sales tax aid

tflach@thestate.comApril 3, 2014 

Three Rivers Greenway, popular with joggeres and walkers, could be extended along the lower Saluda River north of Riverbanks Zoo with aid from a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax in Lexington County.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

  • By the numbers

    Here is an outline of requests – most with multiple pieces – for aid from a proposed sales tax submitted by Lexington County municipalities and Midlands agencies:

    Central Midlands Council of Governments – 1 for $3.4 million

    Cayce – 14 totaling $56.4 million

    Columbia – 4 totaling $32.2 million

    West Columbia – 10 totaling $7.5 million

    Lexington County – 26 totaling $324 million

    Gilbert Rural Water District – 6 totaling $6.2 million

    Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission – 2 totaling $13.8 million

    Irmo Fire District – 1 totaling $6.8 million

    Joint Municipal Water & Sewer Commission – 1 totaling $3.7 million

    Lexington County Recreation Commission – 2 totaling $16.7 million

    Lexington-Richland 5 schools – 4 totaling $29 million

    Riverbanks Zoo and Garden – 1 totaling $10 million

    Batesburg-Leesville – 5 totaling $6.8 million

    Chapin – 11 totaling $50.4 million

    Gaston – 3 totaling $9 million

    Gilbert – 5 totaling $5.1 million

    Irmo – 3 totaling $1.3 million

    Lexington – 5 totaling $21.8 million

    Pelion – 4 totaling $6.1 million

    Pine Ridge – 5 totaling $14.2 million

    South Congaree – 8 totaling $7.5 million

    Springdale – 5 totaling $35.4 million

    Summit – 3 totaling $2.1 million

    Swansea – 9 totaling $3.5 million

    Source: Lexington County sales tax commission

  • More information

— An advisory panel is starting to develop a package of improvements across Lexington County that would be paid for by a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax after receiving lower financial estimates for the proposal.

“This is the moment when this commission’s work begins,” panel chairman Mike Crapps of Lexington said Thursday after the six-member panel received an update on project costs and expected revenue.

The six members of the panel intend to settle on the package by mid-May after assessing nearly 400 projects suggested by 15 municipalities, county officials and eight other agencies.

Their job starts with two new numbers guiding decisions:

•  $290 million, the revenue that state economists forecast the tax would generate during its eight-year life. It’s $10 million less than some county leaders predicted.

•  $672.9 million, $100 million less in the total of requests for aid than initially thought. The reduction came after refinement of inflation estimates and discovery that a few projects sought don’t qualify under state guidelines, consultant Ryan Slattery said.

If County Council likes the panel’s plan, it will go on the Nov. 4 ballot for voters to decide its fate.

Some of the nine council members are pressing for the bulk of the package to be dedicated to road upgrades.

Half of the requests – $336 million – are for new roads as well as widening dozens of routes and intersections.

Major road projects recommended include a new entrance to Columbia Metropolitan Airport off I-26, a new entry to an industrial area in Dixiana off I-26, paving about 100 miles of dirt roads and widening the Long Ponds Road corridor off I-20 near Lexington.

But the package also may include items unrelated to transportation.

The possibilities include drainage improvements in Cayce, West Columbia and Irmo; library upgrades across the county; extending the Three Rivers Greenway along the lower Saluda River; new baseball and soccer athletic fields; new town halls and recreation centers in Cayce, Gaston, Pine Ridge, Pelion, South Congaree and Swansea; miles of new sidewalks; and upgrades in delivery of drinking water and sewage disposal countywide.

Panel members will spend the next month ranking each project on their own and then gather to start settling on the package that will become the referendum plan.

Supporters and opponents of the tax are preparing their campaigns while waiting to see what emerges from the panel.

Purchases of groceries and prescription medicine are exempt from the proposed tax.

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By the numbers

Here is an outline of requests – most with multiple pieces – for aid from a proposed sales tax submitted by Lexington County municipalities and Midlands agencies:

Central Midlands Council of Governments – 1 for $3.4 million

Cayce – 14 totaling $56.4 million

Columbia – 4 totaling $32.2 million

West Columbia – 10 totaling $7.5 million

Lexington County – 26 totaling $324 million

Gilbert Rural Water District – 6 totaling $6.2 million

Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission – 2 totaling $13.8 million

Irmo Fire District – 1 totaling $6.8 million

Joint Municipal Water & Sewer Commission – 1 totaling $3.7 million

Lexington County Recreation Commission – 2 totaling $16.7 million

Lexington-Richland 5 schools – 4 totaling $29 million

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden – 1 totaling $10 million

Batesburg-Leesville – 5 totaling $6.8 million

Chapin – 11 totaling $50.4 million

Gaston – 3 totaling $9 million

Gilbert – 5 totaling $5.1 million

Irmo – 3 totaling $1.3 million

Lexington – 5 totaling $21.8 million

Pelion – 4 totaling $6.1 million

Pine Ridge – 5 totaling $14.2 million

South Congaree – 8 totaling $7.5 million

Springdale – 5 totaling $35.4 million

Summit – 3 totaling $2.1 million

Swansea – 9 totaling $3.5 million

Source: Lexington County sales tax commission

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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