Mike Taylor doesn’t see dollar signs in Lexington County’s proposed sales tax plan for roads and other improvements, , but a better quality of life for his sons and grandchildren.
It’s worth the cost, the Batesburg-Leesville Chamber of Commerce president said, if it makes life better for his family and others in this once-bustling agricultural hub.
But Bill Krecker sees lots of dollar signs and is encouraging his friends and neighbors to vote against the measure, which is on the Nov. 4 ballot. Lexington County Council proposed it, he said, with the thought that there’s a “pond of money out there; let’s see if we can get into people’s pockets without them noticing.”
Taylor and Krecker likely will help shape Batesburg-Leesville voters’ opinions on the issue. The proposed sales tax is aimed at addressing the demand for better roads and infrastructure, paying for $268.1 million in road improvements and other projects.
Taylor has used the chamber’s resources to hold educational meetings about the benefits he sees from the tax increase. Krecker is making phone calls, handing out fliers and writing to the local newspaper to try to warn residents the tax will burden their wallets.
Six of the priority projects to be funded if the increase passes would improve roads in Batesburg-Leesville. There also would be improvements at the town’s wastewater plant, sidewalks, a new library and a county service center east of town that would include space for a magistrate, sheriff’s deputies and ambulances.
Taylor: The tax will help future generations
Taylor, 59, is a native of this western Lexington County town, leaving for a time to go to Clemson University and Newberry College before coming back to run the Twin City Motor Co. his father first bought in 1927.
But in 2009, a bankrupt General Motors embarked on plans to shed more than 2,000 dealerships, including Twin City Motor. Taylor said it was one of the toughest things he’s been through, so he can understand people’s reluctance to pay more if they are down on their luck.
Taylor, who went on to become an insurance agent and today heads the local Chamber of Commerce, has seen Batesburg-Leesville grow to almost 5,500 people.
Road improvements are the greatest need, he said, because narrow turning lanes at major intersections cause safety issues and delay traffic.
“This is an avenue that we the people can improve the roads and safety for our wives and children out there,” he said of the proposed tax.
He said people call the chamber daily with personal issues or concerns about town matters. That gives him some insight into what’s on people’s minds, he said.
“We’ve been through tough times. We are still getting out of it,” Taylor said.
A new Wal-Mart, the development of a four-lane highway and a new water plant show Batesburg-Leesville’s promise, but if more visitors come, the roads and other issues need to be addressed, he said.
“I am thinking of my children and grandchildren,” said Taylor, whose sons also live in Lexington County with their families. He has two grandchildren.
“We can’t put our heads in the sand and expect someone else to take care of this,” Taylor said.
Krecker: It’s just the county’s hand in our pockets
Krecker, a Pennsylvania native and longtime employee with the state of South Carolina, first came to Columbia in 1974 to attend graduate school at what is today Columbia International University.
It was a desire to move to the country that prompted him to move in 2002 to Batesburg-Leesville.
Krecker, who worked as a poll manager for 25 years while living in Richland County, is a charter member of the Columbia Tea Party. He said he joined because he wanted to learn more about federal spending and government expansion.
“There was no isolated event that caused me to be against government spending, rather observation over the years,” Krecker said. “We all understand there are legitimate needs in our country for taxation, yet it has kept growing and it makes me wonder, where is it going to stop?”
Krecker helped hand out fliers at the recent Gaston Collards Festival and Parade and plans to do the same at similar events. Krecker said he wants to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper to reach an even larger audience.
This article was produced as part of this semester’s J-471 Intermediate Reporting & Production class at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications.