Sales Tax Projects List Being Refined

Sales Tax 2

Beaufort County panel selects projects for possible sales-tax increase

Hilton Head Island arts center, Beaufort parking garage, U.S. 278 improvements on the list


Money allotment still being worked out; measure could be voted on in the fall

Facilities for USCB adult learning programs don’t make list

ISLAND PACKET: BY STEPHEN FASTENAU, APRIL 21, 2016
sfastenau@beaufortgazette.com

A Beaufort County panel finalized a list of projects this week to be funded by a possible sales-tax increase, though the price tags are yet to be attached.
Among the projects on the final list:

▪ A scaled-back request from Hilton Head Island to begin work on an arts center

▪ U.S. 278 road and bridge improvements near the Hilton Head bridges
▪ New and resurfaced roads for Port Royal

▪ A parking garage for Beaufort

The Technical College of the Lowcountry’s request for a culinary school also survived, as did money for overhauling Bluffton’s Oyster Factory Park.

Among the projects not making the final list are the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s request for adult-learning facilities, money for Beaufort to build a commercial building in its commerce park and improve other commercial property, a Daufuskie Island ferry and a Port Royal waterfront promenade

The Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission chose projects that could be funded through a vote on a possible one-percent tax increase this fall. The increase would be for four years and would be expected to raise an estimated $120 million.

The commission will next decide how much money each project would receive.

The remaining requests total about $135 million and will have to be cut down, commission chairman Mike Sutton said.

“We’ll start carving out money,” Sutton said. “We haven’t solved the total cost yet. All we have done is created the list to begin that discussion.”

Sutton, representing the city of Beaufort on the commission, said he is most excited about a new road for Port Royal. The project could be a game-changer for the town, he said.

The road would run along the port property from Ribaut Road south. The sale and development of the property is up in the air, but the road is a key piece of the town’s plans and would allow construction traffic through town during any development and eventual access to the water.

Though not the most flashy request, the road and the eventual development around it would be a boon for the town and county, Sutton said. A request to resurface town-owned roads is also still on the list.

“It’s a fascinating thought to change the dynamic of Port Royal so much with one project,” Sutton said.

Beaufort has selected a contractor to scout possible parking garage locations and offer recommendations about the site and design, city manager Bill Prokop said. The city thinks the project would cost about $14 million.

Improvements to Beaufort’s Henry C. Chambers Waterfront and Southside parks also made the list.

USCB had asked for $12 million for new buildings in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head to house its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers adult-learning programs popular with retirees.

The request didn’t make the final list, but commissioners supported the idea. With more than $165 million in requests, something had to go, Sutton said.
The commission classified all requests into needs and wants prioritized based on presentations from representatives of each entity.

There was some debate over Hilton Head’s initial request for $30 million for an arts center, about half the estimated cost for the final project. Town officials agreed to bring the request down to $9.5 million to cover preliminary work and added projects the commission felt better matched other county needs.

“The reason for the reduction is, frankly, because I didn’t believe the capital sales tax commission was going to approve this request at the $30 million figure,” Hilton Head Mayor David Bennett said Tuesday.

A $10 million expansion to the Island Recreation Center, almost $3 million in pathways to public schools and $210,000 for Mitchelville are also a part of Hilton Head’s request.

The county is requesting more than $20 million to improve U.S. 278 near the bridges to the island.

A Beaufort County EMS facility and communication and traffic management equipment for the Sheriff’s Office remain on the list.

After deciding the allotment for each project, the commission will craft a referendum question for November’s ballot.

The Beaufort County School District already plans to ask for a penny tax increase to generate about $282 million over 10 years to build new schools and improve existing facilities.

“My main concern is if it’s going to pass,” Port Royal Mayor Sam Murray said. “I’m kind of skeptical with both being on (the ballot) at the same time.”

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