Sumter County Officials Look to Continue Penny Tax

Sumter County officials are looking to continue the penny-tax implemented by voters nearly six years ago by narrowing down a list of future projects they want to tackle.

County officials say they presented the option to voters because of its ability to bring in an estimated $70 million dollars without targeting a specific group.

"The way we look at it, it's probably the most equal and fair tax that you can possibly have because it's across the board," said County Administrator Gary Mixon. "It's not just on property taxes, it's not just on the businesses or the industry. It's a fair tax, everybody pays the same equal amount."

The seven-year tax is expected to bring in an estimated $70 million in revenue, and has so far funded a $20 million Judicial Center, a much-needed face-lift on the Civic Center, and Patriot Park, an attraction that has brought in plenty of tourists.

"Restaurants and hotels are benefiting from it, a lot of tournaments come, it's booked," said County Chairman Larry Blanding. "It's a state-of-the-art facility, we've gotten great reviews on it and that's just one draw to Sumter as a result of the penny."

The money has also gone towards infrastructure, such as updating the water and sewage system. County officials credit this update to bringing Continental Tires to Sumter.

"If we were not ready to accept and to move forward, we would not have Continental. That's what leadership is about, it is taking that necessary risk to provide for the next generation," said Blanding. "Sumter County did that, I think we're in the process of trying to continue that."

With the tax set to expire in 2015, officials are looking to put a seven-year continuation of the same tax on November's ballot and have a list of more than $100 million dollars in project requests.

If voted in, the continuation would bring in an estimated $75 million. Mixon says officials have their work cut out for them narrowing down the list, which will be made public once it's finalized.


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