Campaign pros to help with Richland library referendum

08/20/2013 7:19 PM

08/21/2013 12:21 AM

Heyward Bannister, who ran the successful campaign for Richland County’s sales tax for transportation, has been tapped to manage the drive to raise property taxes to expand libraries.

The issue will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Bannister said Monday his BANCO/Bannister Co. has put together “the same folks who helped me with the transportation penny campaign,” including Richard Quinn & Associates. Betty Gregory, an independent consultant who was Richland 1’s campaign coordinator for winning bond referendums in 1996 and 2002, is also on the team.

BANCO and Quinn also are running another high-profile November campaign – the re-election of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

The referendum asks voters to allow the library to borrow $59 million to be repaid with a property-tax increase. The effect would be an extra $12 to $14 a year for the owner of a $100,000 house, officials have said.

Bannister’s team has about $50,000 to work with, said Rick Ott, an executive with M.B. Kahn Construction Co. and a leader of Vote for Our Library, a citizen group working for passage.

“It’s a shoestring budget, but we think the message itself will carry the day,” Ott said.

The library would use the money to renovate or expand seven facilities and to build two new libraries, in the northwest and northeast parts of the county.

Campaign funds will be donated, Ott said. No public money will be spent.

Ott’s group may have a tough time convincing voters to raise taxes again, anti-tax activist Don Weaver said.

County residents are adjusting to the extra penny-on-the-dollar sales tax for transportation that went into effect in May, Weaver said.

Voters approved that referendum by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent in November 2012.

“At some point, people are going to say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Still, Weaver said he’d be surprised if there’s organized opposition to the library expansion.

Activity promoting the library expansion will increase after Labor Day, Bannister said.

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