What’s next when Beaufort County SC ends the 1% sales tax



Residents and visitors to Beaufort County will no longer have to pay an additional 1% sales tax by the end of the year, according to county spokesperson Chris Ophardt.

The county has probably already collected the maximum of $ 120 million from its one-cent transportation tax, and the SC Revenue Department hopes to stop collecting the tax by Thanksgiving, Ophardt told a reporter this week.

The SC treasurer’s office informed county officials that the sales tax, approved in a 2018 referendum, had raised more than $ 119 million as of September 30, Ophardt said. Based on that figure, the county likely received the $ 120 million it was supposed to get from the tax in October.

Beaufort County is not sure exactly how much it has raised to date as its reports from the SC Treasurer’s office arrive a month late. The most recent report on the county’s website shows the tax collected $ 119,455,096 in September.

Voters approved the 1% transportation tax in 2018 to pay for the ongoing U.S. 278 bridge project ($ 80 million), improved traffic on Lady’s Island ($ 30 million ) and county-wide sidewalk and trail projects ($ 10 million). The tax is supposed to cease to be collected either after it has raised $ 120 million or after four years, whichever comes first.

Bluffton overflight bottlenecks with US traffic 278 eastbound during the morning rush hour on Thursday, October 21, 2021, on the two-lane bridges of Hilton Head Island. Drawn Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

The news that Beaufort County will end the transportation tax comes the same week voters slammed into a new 1% sales tax referendum that would have funded tax credits for property owners and paid off municipal projects. It also comes as some county officials are pushing forward a plan to propose a new transportation sales tax in 2022.

The county is working with the SC Revenue Department to advise residents and vendors when to stop collecting tax, Ophardt said.

Once it ceases, the Beaufort County sales tax rate will drop from 7% to 6%.

Any money raised above the $ 120 million cap will be used to pay for construction and labor on the Lady’s Island and sidewalk projects, Ohardt said. This would be in line with the SC Act, which states that any excess money collected from a transportation tax must first be used to fund the projects for which the tax was intended.

If these projects are completed, then the additional money must be used to pay off the principal of the transport infrastructure debts, according to state law.

Where are the dime sales tax plans?

Cars start backing up on Sams Point Road Wednesday morning in one lane while waiting for the light to change at Lady’s Island Drive. A new right-turn lane on Sams Point will be the first use of the $ 30 million voter-approved road tax for Lady’s Island in 2018, which will convert the current right-turn lane to another lane to the ‘before, in the hope of reducing congestion. Drawn Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

As part of the Dime Sales Tax program, Beaufort County has identified nine projects to improve traffic on Lady’s Island and eight sidewalk and trail projects across the county.

Of Lady’s Island’s nine projects, one – a new right-turn lane at the intersection of Sam’s Point Road and US 21 – has been fully completed. Five of the projects are in their final design phase, and the last three are undergoing pre-design and environmental reviews, Ophardt said.

All of the sidewalks and pathways – which include projects in Bluffton, Beaufort, St. Helena, Lady’s Island and Port Royal – are still in the design or pre-design phase, according to the county’s website.

This week the county hosted a community meeting to discuss one of the trail projects planned at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from Sea Island Parkway to Jonathan Francis Senior Drive. The proposed 5-foot sidewalk is still in the design stage, according to the county.

For a complete list of penny sales tax funded projects and their status, visit beaufortcountypenny.com.

A reporter for The Island Packet covering local government and development, Kacen Bayless is from St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a major in investigative reporting. In the past, he worked for the St. Louis Magazine, the Columbia Missourian, the KBIA and the Columbia Business Times. His work has earned him awards from the Missouri and South Carolina Press Association for his investigative, corporate, in-depth, health, growth, and government reporting.
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