The Capital Initiative Panel starts to form
Despite the county council chairman’s call for “transparency,” a closed session discussion preceded the appointment of the first committee member designated to study The Capital Initiative - PLUS "legal advice" in closed session - attached PDF.
Clinton City Council appointed Walter Hughes III on Wednesday morning. The Laurens City Council has not yet made its appointment.
Hughes, and whoever Laurens picks, will choose the 3rd member designated from municipalities in Laurens County - the largest of these is Fountain Inn. All appointments should be done by Sept. 27. Laurens County Council appoints 3 members - their next meeting is Sept. 24.
County Council Chairman Dr. David Pitts said Sept. 5 that the voters of Laurens County can be assured the 1-cent sales tax increase, for capital projects only, would be handled in a totally “transparent” manner.
It is permissible - although not required by law - that public bodies’ appointments to boards and commissions can be discussed in closed session. That’s what the Clinton City Council did on Sept. 18 - the called meeting agenda says the executive session was for “One matter relating to the appointment of a person to a public body or regulated by a public body.”
Clinton’s appointee, Hughes, is the Director of Business Development at Sadler-Hughes Apothecary, a Clinton iconic business since 1917. A Clinton High School graduate, Walter Hughes III is a George Washington University graduate and formerly a Peace Corps youth development specialist.
PREVIOUS - The Clinton Chronicle Spotlight, Sept. 18 issue:
Something you’re going to be hearing a lot more about between now and November, 2020 ...
The Capital Initiative ... “Tonight, You Will Be Participating”
Instead of sitting and listening, Laurens County taxpayers interested in The Capital Initiative - a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund construction and equipment projects - were participating on Sept. 5.
Meeting with a large group at The Ridge, Laurens, facilitator Dr. David Pitts gave the instructions, “We are one county and we are one people. Tonight, you will be participating.”
After instructions, the audience by color-coded groups listed on paper what Laurens County needs in terms of construction projects.
In the end, it looked like the taxpayers had identified about $40 billion in projects, although an initial round of The Capital Initiative is expected to generate $40 million from an addition one-cent sales tax.
“This is the people’s project and the people’s vote,” Pitts said. “If I have anything to do with it, we will keep people from the outside from coming in to buy the vote. What is the Plan B? None of the projects will be accomplished, that’s what I would say. Does it sunset? It has a mandatory sunset of 8 years. This is a capital projects sales tax and, let’s be clear, it is a tax.
“It is a grassroots effort by the people and for the people of Laurens County. Our goal is to be transparent from now til the very end.
“Make no mistake, this does not reduce property taxes, as compared to LOST (the local option sales tax) that did reduce property taxes, and Act 388 that reduced taxes on owner-occupied homes. This is not a property tax reduction - I want everyone to be clear on that.”
Sept. 27 is the deadline for the municipalities to submit nominees - 1 each from Laurens and Clinton, 3 from the County Council. Pitts told the audience, “Greenwood County has had this twice, and they are $20M short. The people there voted and they depended on the SC Department of Revenue’s projections. You have to prioritize the projects - if we do projects 1 - 3 and run out of money, the rest of the projects will not be funded.”
No county tax dollars, or paid time to county employees, can be used to promote it. “If it passes, it will be a grassroots effort from people like you and me,” Pitts said.
“We’re going to depend on you to volunteer and recruit people to volunteer. We will need committees -- social media will bombard us, for the good and the bad, and we will need some volunteers for that.”
County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks said, “It’s a 6 member commission - 3 appointed by the County Council, 1 from Laurens, 1 from Clinton, and 1 from the other municipalities. If the Laurens representative and the Clinton representative cannot decide on a third person, the county council will make that appointment, and that person must reside in one of the other municipalities. Fountain Inn has the highest index number (outlined in state law) based on population, but it does not have an index number high enough to have its own representative. In the next 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, the Clinton and Laurens representatives have to get together and make that appointment.”
The attorney said what the county, at first, and the committee, second, does not want to do is “overstep our bounds, and it passes, and a group comes forward and says you didn’t appoint that 3rd member correctly or you over estimated the amount. We want to avoid expensive litigation, so every nook and cranny of it needs to be done correctly. I hear horror stories from other county attorneys. Too much effort is going into this; we don’t want to see it kicked out on a technicality.”
After the committee is formed and meets, and the projects to be voted on are decided, with a priority number for each, the Laurens County Council has to adopt an ordinance listing the projects and commissioning the vote, that goes to the local elections board for listing on the electronic ballot. Cruickshanks said, “You want to be as specific as possible with cost. If you have $40 million and you identify $70 million in projects, you’re not going to get to the ones after you spend the $40 million. The others can be done in a second round, if it passes. Most counties that have this have done more than one round. You don’t wait for the money to come in, you bond it. The revenues from the tax make the bond payments.
“So in August of next year, the county council will pass an ordinance. The election commission places it on the ballot in November, 2020,” Cruickshanks said.
If successful, in May 2021, the tax is imposed on everyone who buys anything (minus exemptions) anywhere in Laurens County. -- Vic MacDonald, The Chronicle editor
SPECIAL CALLED MEETING OF MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL
CITY OF CLINTON
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2019
P.S. BAILEY CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS
M. S. BAILEY MUNICIPAL CENTER
211 NORTH BROAD STREET
- Meeting called to order by Mayor McLean
- Pledge of Allegiance
- EXECUTIVE SESSION
One matter relating to the appointment of a person to a public body or regulated by a public body
- CITY COUNCIL to consider THE NOMINATION AND APPOINTMENT OF A REPRESENTATIVE TO THE SALES TAX COMMISSION FOR LOCAL OPTION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT TAX.
- City Attorneys Reports and Recommendations.
- Council Members Reports and Recommendations.
- Mayors Reports and Recommendations.
THE AGENDA IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT ANY TIME PRIOR TO 24 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING. A FINAL AGENDA WILL BE AVAILABLE 24 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING DATE.