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Aiken County to prepare 1-cent sales tax package

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AIKEN --- Roads, emergency vehicles and new equipment are top projects Aiken County Council is considering for the next 1-cent sales tax package. The list of projects will likely be scaled down because tax collections are expected to decline.

The sales tax committee met Tuesday to review dozens of projects related to public works, drainage, transportation, parks and recreation. Council members will likely vote to place the tax package on the November general election ballot, but committee members said the number of capital project improvements needed outweighs the funds.

The projects proposed Tuesday would equal about $147 million in tax collection, but only about $62 million will likely be available, said Councilman Gary Bunker, a member of the sales tax committee.

"There are gallons worth of needs with quarts worth of money," Bunker said. "We're going to really have to do some prioritizing, and decide to, for instance, pave some roads but not others, or refurbish some buildings but not others."

Last year, the state Department of Revenue changed the tax law, requiring unprepared grocery items be exempt from the 1-cent sales tax, officials said.

It's uncertain what effect that will have, but the collections will likely be less, County Administrator Clay Killian said.

Aiken County began collecting the sales tax in 2000, and the current package will have collected about $114 million by the end of 2011, Killian said. About 30 percent of the tax collections are from out-of-area residents who use county services, Killian said.

Committee members will receive a prioritized list of projects in two weeks. From there, the projects will be narrowed down, said Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie. Some projects will also be consolidated with city plans for the two governments to share the costs, she said.

If voters decide to keep the 1-cent sales tax, collections on the new package would begin in 2012.


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