More than a third of the capital improvement projects included for funding when voters approved a one-cent penny sales tax in 2016 are now expected to be scrapped after county officials revealed Wednesday they’re expecting a $20 million shortfall in what they anticipated collecting.
To date, county Capital Projects Coordinator Josh Skinner said $17.52 million has been raised since the tax took effect May 1, 2017.
“Obviously, when writing the ballot question, the county planned as if it would collect $87,938,105 allowed under state law. However, based on our quarterly averages, we are conservatively projecting to collect $67,902,834,” Skinner said.
With online sales being subject to the local tax, officials said the final tally could grow to be near $70 million.
“But still not enough to fund all 27 projects on the list,” Skinner said.
Greenwood County Council chairman Steve Brown made the announcement Wednesday during a Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce-sponsored “State of the City and County” luncheon in front of more than 200 people at Harris Baptist Church.
The referendum question was approved by a large margin, with 65% of voters agreeing to the surcharge for the creation of a funding stream to address capital investments countywide. The tax would be in place for up to 8 years or until the projected $87.9 million was in hand, whichever came first.
“We continue to be grateful to the people of Greenwood County who have allowed us to apply this sales tax and collect it and to take care of the projects that you through a referendum have approved,” Brown said.
“The money seems to be increasing somewhat. There’s been some changes, not that significant, but whether some of those projects are going to be funded, we’ll just see what happens a number of years from now,” Brown said. “I think for years to come, you’ll be pleased with how that money has been spent, and the positive impact it will have had on this community.”
County Manager Toby Chappell said Greenwood just received its eighth quarterly collection from the state Department of Revenue, which administers the funds. In the past year, the county has received $9.07 million — up more than $600,000 from the initial allocations.
Despite the dollars not adding up to early estimates, officials said those projects that have benefited from the tax will provide the county with offerings that would have been impossible to realize without the levy, such as ongoing construction of William H. “Billy” O’Dell Upstate Center for Manufacturing Excellence at Piedmont Technical College and new portable radios for first responders.
“The 800 MHz radios was a big goal of ours. We had different agencies on different frequencies. We now have everyone on one channel,” Chappell said.
County leaders shifted Skinner from his position within the planning department to coordinator of the capital project sales tax venture — a move Chappell said was designed to increase accountability.
“We talked to other communities that had a huge problem with how this went and the transparency of it, so the county said we wanted to have one person whose job was to be in charge of this money,” Chappell said.
Skinner said the anticipated $70 million figure is built around consumer behavior and future economic conditions.
“It is nearly impossible to determine where the final revenue numbers will be since they are based on purchases that will be occurring over the next 6 years in the future,” Skinner said. “Our hope is that the economy remains strong, people keep buying locally in Greenwood County and as many projects as possible on the list will get funded when the last check from the state treasurer’s office is mailed in July of 2025.”