AIKEN --- The third renewal of Aiken County's 1-cent sales and use tax was one item on Tuesday's ballot that wasn't defeated in the name of conservatism.
The referendum, which is expected to bring in between $130 million to $145 million, was approved by 55 percent of voters.
After months of council's hand-wringing over whether projects considered special interests by groups such as the Aiken Tea Party and We The People would kill the measure, voters showed they weren't going to let one or two projects kill the entire deal.
Projects requested by the county's municipalities, including the Aiken Railroad Depot, put the referendum in contention as residents questioned which projects are essential.
Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young said every voter wouldn't be happy with every project on a 14-page list.
"I just think people realized the importance and what it does mean to the county," he said.
Details among the 21 precincts vetoing the referendum showed that voters' feelings toward it weren't quite what county council members had expected.
Throughout the process, council members touted small communities such as Monetta and Perry as the true winners of the referendum. With fewer revenue sources, Young said they were dependent on the vote passing more than other areas. Council members expected areas such as North Augusta and centralized neighborhoods in the city of Aiken more likely to vote against the sales tax.
Those unincorporated areas were the ones who voted against the referendum, and votes show those communities were torn by the decision.
In areas such as Gloverville, Warrenville and Beech Island it came down to fewer than 20 votes to approve the referendum.
Five-year Aiken resident Carole Pincavage said regardless of opinions on projects and how the referendum passed, a 1-cent referendum is equitable.
Pincavage, who is a supporter of Gov.-elect Nikki Haley, said she supported a more conservative approach overall, but locally, voting for the sales tax was the best option.
"There are things like emergency services and roads that are just as important to tourists and visitors as they are to residents," she said. "This puts the burden on everyone."
We The People member Debbie Nix, who rallied against the referendum, said although they lost she's proud of the time and energy put into researching her government's spending.
"I feel that what we did was an act of conscience and all voters should attempt to know where their money goes."
The referendum will begin in early 2012.