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.
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: