Bedenbaugh: Without CPST, a lot of amenities enjoyed locally ‘could not have been realized’

October 13, 2018

Three previous iterations of the Capital Project Sales Tax, or CPST, have generated money that has paid for new parks and many improvements to existing recreational facilities that local residents enjoy.

The funds also have provided necessities such as new vehicles for first responders and infrastructure repairs and upgrades.

“Had we not had a CPST, a lot of the amenities that we see around town could not have been realized,” said Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh.

In the Nov. 6 general election, voters will be deciding whether or not they want to approve a fourth round of the one-cent tax.

If passed, the levy’s proceeds would be divided among the City of Aiken, City of North Augusta, Aiken County and eight small municipalities: Burnettown, Jackson, Monetta, New Ellenton, Perry, Salley, Wagener and Windsor

A formula based on population and point of sale would be used in distributing the proceeds, which are expected to exceed more than $160 million.

Discussing recently how past CPST money has been used by the City of Aiken, Bedenbaugh mentioned Generations Park.

The grand opening for that facility on Columbia Highway North was held in July. Its $2.7-million first phase has been completed, and it includes an amphitheater, a modern playground, a walking trail and a picnic shelter on the park’s 120 acres.

In addition, Bedenbaugh said, CPST funds are helping support another $4.5-million project, the construction of the Eustis Park community center for senior citizens and youngsters, which is scheduled to open in March or April of next year.

The 12,000-square-foot building will have a banquet hall, two large-capacity meeting rooms, a catering kitchen, office space for staff and an outdoor patio.

With an infusion of CPST money, the City of Aiken also transformed The Alley from a passageway with unrealized potential into “the center of social activity in our downtown,” Bedenbaugh said.

He added the cost of that initiative was “just shy of $1.5 million.”

Included in the City of Aiken’s portion of CPST III funds was an allotment of nearly $8.1 million for water and sewer system infrastructure improvements.

When deciding what to fund with past CPST proceeds, Aiken County officials allocated roughly $50 million for the paving of dirt roads and $7.5 million for the purchase of vehicles for the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.

Upgrading emergency medical services facilities and constructing new ones also were priorities.

“To reduce the pressure on property taxes, the county’s philosophy has been to put eligible projects into this tax (CPST) for things that are needed in our everyday operations – heavy equipment, road improvements, Sheriff’s Office vehicles, EMS stations and ambulances,” said County Administrator Clay Killian.

A $12 million allotment in CPST II helped pay for the construction of the $35.7-million Aiken County Government Center, which opened on University Parkway in 2014.

Among the allocations in CSPT III were $1 million to build a new county animal shelter, which was a joint project with the Friends of the Animal Shelter, and $5 million to construct a new county health department.

Instead of building a new health department, “we were able to purchase an existing building on Beaufort Street and renovate it for about $1.5 million,” Killian said. “Most of the money we saved probably will go to cover the shortfall (in CPST III funds) from changes in state law.”

The new animal shelter opened in 2014.

For the City of North Augusta, past CPST iterations have provided $5 million for the construction of a new Municipal Building, $5 million for the Riverview Park Activities Center gymnasium expansion, $2.7 million for Public Safety Station 3 on Belvedere Clearwater Road and more than $2 million for expansion of the Greeneway.

CPST funds also covered the $1.5-million cost to purchase two new fire trucks.

“As the City of North Augusta held the line on property taxes throughout the recession (that began late in 2007), the City became more dependent on the CPST for capital projects,” wrote

North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover in an email to the Aiken Standard. “Currently, about 69 percent of our General Fund budget is personnel, so we have very little room for large capital projects for our parks and Public Safety.”

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