York County considers delaying vote on 'Pennies
1:00 pm
Mon April 5, 2010

York County considers delaying vote on 'Pennies for Progress'

York County voters are scheduled to vote this September on a one-percent sales tax they've been paying for the last 13 years. The money goes toward road projects. Monday night the York County Council will considering postponing the public vote on that tax.

York County was the first in South Carolina to impose a sales tax to pay for roads. Since 1997 the one percent tax has raised more than $200 million and lured more than $100 million in additional dollars as matching funds from the state and federal government. Some 20 different road projects, including widening I-77 and State Road 160, have been done thanks to the tax known as "Pennies for Progress." But it will soon expire and county officials must now decide if they want to ask voters to continue the tax during a recession.

"Are we complete? Do we have all the congestion taken care of? The answer is 'No,'" says Pennies for Progress co-manager Phil Leazer. "Do we have all the safety issues and crash related issues taken care of? The answer is 'No.'"

Leazer says the county has asked citizens, city governments and school districts to weigh in on the region's road needs.

"Everybody we could find to put two cent in, they've told us 'No, you still have congestion issues,'" says Leazer. "You still have safety issues. And that list is estimated at over $800 million worth of needs still out there today."

The one-percent tax for roads must be approved by voters every seven years. This September was to be the third such vote, but York County officials are considering delaying it until next summer for two reasons. First, the county thought it would have collected the maximum dollars from the tax by now, but the recession has slowed that down. Second, York County currently has a nearly 16 percent unemployment rate and voters may feel less inclined to vote for the tax.

The county council will hold a public hearing and then likely vote on a date for the referendum Monday at 6 p.m.

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