A tug-of-war has erupted among West Columbia officials on adoption of a meal tax.
Some foes of the tax want to delay consideration until after an advisory referendum Nov. 8, a plan that would allow residents in the Lexington County community of 15,000 people to sound off on the proposal.
“We need to put it aside until after learning more about how our people feel,” said Councilman Jimmy Brooks, who feels public attendance at meetings on the tax so far isn’t an adequate measure of sentiment.
But others call the idea a delaying tactic.
“I don’t make my decision based on polls,” Mayor Bobby Horton said. “I don’t think we need a referendum.”
The tax can be adopted by local officials without voter approval. But a referendum on it occurred once in a nearby town.
Lexington officials repealed it in 2005, after town voters said they didn’t like it. It was re-instated last year without a similar ballot.
The tax adds up to two pennies on the dollar on restaurant dining, take-out food, some snacks and bar tabs.
Use of what’s officially known as a hospitality tax is limited to promoting tourism, but local leaders have wide discretion in its use.
Interest in the tax in West Columbia stems from suggestions its revenue could be devoted mainly to pay for additional public parking and upkeep of the trail along the Congaree River, both popular gathering spots for visitors.
The tax could produce up to $1 million a year, according to preliminary estimates.
A push for it comes after the Greater Cayce-West Columbia Chamber of Commerce recommended adoption as a way to enhance local recreation and beautification.
Chamber leaders haven’t discussed the idea of a referendum, said Gregg Pinner, president of the organization.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483
If you go
West Columbia city officials will listen to public comment about a proposed meal tax at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 200 N. 12th St.
The tax would add two pennies on the dollar for dining out, take-out meals, some snacks and bar tabs.