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CPST IV would be renewal of an existing one-cent tax

September 30, 2018

When Aiken County residents vote in the Nov. 6 general election, they won’t just be selecting candidates to fill a variety of positions.

They’ll also have the opportunity to approve or turn down Capital Project Sales Tax IV, or CPST IV.

Levies such as this one are known commonly as 1-cent, 1 percent or penny local option sales taxes.

The money generated would be used to pay for projects and purchases that “have a long life span and a significant dollar value,” said Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker.

Examples include the construction of buildings, the paving or resurfacing of roads and the purchases of ambulances and police cars.

“The biggest misconception that folks have about CPST IV is that the county is asking for a tax increase, but what we are actually doing is trying to keep an existing tax,” Bunker said. “The first CPST was passed in 2000. The second was passed in 2004, and the third was passed in 2010. Those were continuations of the CPST. It’s not like we had one penny, then added another penny and then added another penny. It’s been a 1 percent sales tax since 2000.”

If CPST IV receives approval, the money would be collected during a seven-year period that would begin May 1, 2019 and end April 20, 2026. The South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office has estimated the proceeds from the tax would total around $163 million.

The money would be divided among Aiken County, the City of Aiken, the City of North Augusta and eight smaller municipalities: Burnettown, Jackson, Monetta, New Ellenton, Perry, Salley, Wagener and Windsor.

The amount each entity would receive would be determined by a formula based 50 percent on population and 50 percent on point of sale.

“The formula is not a statutory formula,” Bunker said. “I would call it a customary formula that the county instituted with the first CPST.”

Aiken County would get nearly $75.3 million, or 46.24 percent of the money expected to be collected. The City of Aiken would receive approximately $50.9 million, or 31.23 percent. And the City of North Augusta would receive around $30.7 million or 18.88 percent.

The eight smaller municipalities would share the remaining $5.95 million. Their portions would range from a low of $76,868 for Monetta to $1,833,612 for Burnettown.

On the ballot, each recipient of CPST IV proceeds will have a list of the projects and purchases it plans to fund with CPST IV revenue.

“The money can be used only for the items that are on the lists,” Bunker said.

The officials of each entity created a list for their jurisdiction. Then the lists were submitted to the Capital Project Sales Tax Commission, which was “an appointed committee of non-office holders who essentially formulated the ballot question,” Bunker said.

In late July, County Council gave final approval to an ordinance that authorized a referendum on CPST IV and also dealt with exact language for the ballot question.

County Council’s consent was needed because “this is a countywide tax,” Bunker said.

The most expensive allocations on the county’s list of projects and purchases it would like to fund with CPST IV money include $11 million to help pay for the construction of a new complex for the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, $9.335 million to pave dirt roads, $7.3 million to buy heavy equipment and to replace other vehicles, and $4.75 million to resurface paved roads.

There also are allotments of $4.5 million to buy replacement vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office and $3.6 million for renovations at the Aiken County detention center.

“We think that infrastructure and public safety are the two most critical things that we have to address,” Bunker said.

In addition, there is a $9-million allocation to deal with stormwater drainage issues and make other improvements on Whiskey Road.

The City of Aiken’s list has an $8 million allotment for Whiskey Road upgrades.

“After what seems to be an endless amount of study and analysis, we are finally putting together a program for resolving drainage and roadway issues up and down Whiskey Road,” Bunker said. “If you combine all of that (in CPST IV) with some extra drainage money we have in previous CPST balances, we can put together a $20-million package to get the work done. We can use the money as our skin in the game for an application to the (South Carolina Transportation) Infrastructure Bank for a big vision project that would do everything from fixing drainage to widening, working on medians and adding turn lanes and safety features. It also would add a Whiskey-Powderhouse connector road. But if that falls though, we still would have $20 million to get drainage issues resolved.”

The City of Aiken’s CPST IV list also includes allocations of $10 million apiece for water infrastructure projects, sanitary sewer pipe rehabilitation and stormwater system improvements.

In addition there is a $9 million allotment for parks and recreation improvements and a $3,911,319 allocation for the Aiken Department of Public Safety to replace equipment and to construct and renovate facilities.

The biggest allotment on the City of North Augusta’s CPST IV list is $11.5 million for the design, development and construction of a new headquarters for the Department of Public Safety.

Other allocations include $3.5 million for wastewater infrastructure improvements and $3 million for the “reconstruction” of roads.

Among the allotments on the eight smaller municipalities’ CPST IV lists are $500,000 for water line and tank upgrades in Burnettown and $420,000 for stormwater infrastructure improvements, street resurfacing and sidewalk construction in New Ellenton.

Also on the lists are allocations of $350,000 for projects involving sewer plant renovations and sewer line installations in New Ellenton and $350,000 for water and sewer system infrastructure upgrades in Wagener.

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