Ned Tolar, unopposed in his campaign for a Lexington County Council seat, says his military training will be a big help as he also campaigns against the council’s decision to ask voters to increase the county's sales tax.
The increase from 7 percent to 8 percent would go to fund too many projects that are unessential and expensive, said Tolar, who beat longtime Councilman Bill Banning in a primary runoff in which Tolar made the tax increase a major issue.
Flat feet kept him out of West Point, but not the 1966 draft at the height of the Vietnam War, Tolar said. So he enlisted in the Air Force for a safer assignment and was soon maintaining advanced flight simulators – machines the size of a train car that he says taught him to break large problems down into smaller, simpler ones.
“The Lexington penny tax has become a big issue when it should have been broken down and presented in smaller pieces,” he said.
After leaving the Air Force, he got a bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of North Carolina, then worked designing control systems for water and electricity, eventually ending up at Honeywell.
Tolar, now 70, says he now wants to fix what he sees as some of the budget control problems in Lexington County. Many of the road-related projects to be paid for with the tax increase are needed but shouldn’t be alongside library and sidewalk expansions, he said.
“This tax is the county’s solution, but they aren’t addressing the real problems,” Tolar said.
He now owns Vico LLC, a property management company named after his wife, Vicki.
He said managing housing associations has brought him closer to people and made him more sensitive to tax changes. Cutting the county's almost $113 million budget to keep taxes low should be the first resort, followed by a thorough look at its reserves, Tolar said.
While he understands the need for taxes and hasn’t advocated against other tax increases, Tolar said this countywide referendum is the wrong tax at the wrong time.
Tolar keeps up a steady stream of calls on his cellphone, managing his business and campaign. He said he’ll be using it even more to network with tax-increase opponents as the election approaches.
Tolar stresses an ethical approach to problem-solving. He said a $450,000 contract with Aliance Consulting Engineers of Columbia to do the prep work needed to get the tax on the ballot was bloated and unethical because Alliance isn’t part of the Lexington community.
“If you present issues ethically, morally, and keep the taxpayers’ best interests in mind, you will always have support,” Tolar said.
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.