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Aiken-area leaders endorse sales tax renewal at Chamber of Commerce lunch

August 31, 2018 GMT

It was all hands on deck for renewal of the capital projects sales tax Wednesday at the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce’s “State of the Community” luncheon.

During the event – attended by a record 485 people and held at the USC Aiken Convocation Center – city, county and business leaders vouched for Capital Projects Sales Tax IV.

The sales tax is a 1-cent tax option that funds major municipal improvements and purchases: road fixes, first responder vehicles and recreation investments, for example.

Renewing the sales tax – instating Capital Projects Sales Tax IV in this case – is up to the public. Capital Projects Sales Tax IV will be on the ballot Nov. 6.

The Aiken area has been subject to sales tax since the early 2000s.

On Wednesday, Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, City Council member Lessie Price, Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker, County Council member Camille Furgiuele and Chamber of Commerce Chairman Joshua Stewart stumped for the sales tax.

The Chamber of Commerce unanimously endorsed the renewal of the capital projects sales tax on Wednesday, as well.

Osbon equated the renewable tax to the “powerful” penny. Every place setting at the luncheon was adorned with a penny.

Bunker, after rattling off purchases and projects funded by the potential collections, described the tax as both crucial and stabilizing.

“The CPST, combined with County Council’s strong fiscal conservatism, helps hold the line on property tax hikes,” he said.

In an event-opening address, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO J. David Jameson said capital projects “must be done.” And those projects, he continued, teeter on capital projects sales tax money.

“The state of our community at the county and municipal levels is affected by the ability to understand the capital needs, prioritize them, then find a way to pay for them,” Jameson said.

The November ballot will include $163 million of proposed projects, Bunker noted.

A majority of Aiken’s sales tax list is dedicated to infrastructure work, such as road and water fixes.

“That’s a very substantial amount,” Osbon said, “but those needs are very substantial.”

Without the passage of Capital Projects Sales Tax IV, Bunker said, the money will need to be found elsewhere – tax hikes, essentially. And that, the County Council chairman added, would institute a “negative feedback loop.”

“Without passage in November, we’ll see financial dislocation at the county level and in our cities, and uncertainty in our future property tax rates,” Bunker said.

More information on the sales tax, as well as a list of prior projects, can be found on the city’s website.