FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence County Council is in the beginning stages of implementing a third penny sales tax.

At a meeting in late March, the Administration and Finance Committee voted to favorably recommend that the full county council go forward with creating a commission to oversee the creation of a ballot question for the 2020 general election.

The commission would consist of six members: three appointed by the county council and three appointed by municipalities according to population.

In Florence County, two members of the committee would be appointed by the Florence City Council and one member from another municipality would be appointed by those two members, according to County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith.

The Administration and Finance Committee consists of Council Chairman Waymon Mumford, Vice Chairman Willard Dorriety, Secretary/Chaplain Mitchell Kirby and Councilman James Schofield.

The implementation of the third penny could be fairly contentious for the county council. First, Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela has already spoken before a General Assembly committee in favor of a similar tax for municipalities. If the legislation passes and Florence implements such a tax, it could cost 70 percent of the revenues projected for the county sales tax.

Also, some people in the county are pushing for the Florence One Schools board to use a similar Education Capital Project Sales Tax after a proposal for a bond issue failed in a referendum in February.

There are provisions in the legislation for a municipal tax that would prevent all three government entities from enacting a tax.

The penny sales tax is formally designated as the Capital Project Sales Tax in South Carolina Code. It is commonly referred to as the penny sales tax because it allows counties to collect a 1 percemt sales tax after a referendum. One percent of $1 is a penny.

Florence County has had two penny sales taxes in its history. The first penny tax was in effect from May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2014. The second penny tax sales tax went into effect immediately after the expiration of the first tax on May 1, 2014, and it expires on April 30, 2021.

Funds from the first penny tax totaled $144.7 million and were used for six major road projects in the county. Four of the six projects from the first penny tax are substantially completed. The other two, S.C. 51 and a U.S. 301 bypass, are in progress. Construction continues on S.C. 51 with a target of June 2020 for completion. Engineering of the U.S. 301 Bypass is in progress. It is estimated that the U.S. 301 bypass will be finished in 2021.

Funds from the second penny sales tax were projected to be $145 million and are allocated for 474 projects. For a detailed list of the projects and the funds used, visit florenceco.org/road-projects.

Smith said at the Administration and Finance Committee meeting that the county would finish the projects for the second penny sales tax before it finishes the first.

Thanks to its location at the intersection of Interstates 20 and 95, Florence County has received a substantial percentage of its penny sales tax revenue from non-local people.

Government and Poltics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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