Lowcountry leaders discuss proposed one percent sales tax - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Lowcountry leaders discuss proposed local option sales tax


Beaufort County Council held the first of three readings for the proposed one percent sales tax on Monday.

It is very popular with leaders from Port Royal, Beaufort City, and Bluffton. Some on Hilton Head Island are dead against it.

Those who support the measure say it will bring a much needed relief to property taxes. But Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew McLaughlin isn't sold on it.

"Personally, it is a burden to carry, convincing me that it's good tax policy to shift the tax burden away from property tax and onto sales tax," said McLaughlin.

Under state law, 63 percent of the money earned from the penny tax will go to the property tax credit fund, and that percentage gradually increases each year.

For instance, say the penny tax generates $30 million in its first year, then $18.9 million would go to the property tax credit fund, and that money must be used as a credit for property owners. It would show up on resident's tax bill.

$8 million would get split between the different towns in the county. What about the remaining money? As of right now, it goes to the county municipal fund to sit. There are no plans in the proposal to do anything with money that is left over from the tax, and that is one of the reason some town and county leaders don't like it.

"Fundamentally, I think that the thing is being rush a little bit and I don't think people really understand it yet," said McLaughlin. 

Some council members who oppose the tax say they have no problem having voters decide, but they say it shouldn't be done in a special election, because special elections can be expensive, and fewer voters turn out to vote.

The county has tried to pass a local option tax before and voters rejected it.

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