SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. — Project sales taxes were on ballots for many Midlands residents yesterday. In Sumter, this one cent tax would have funded projects in the county over the next seven years.
The county will not be renewing its penny sales tax after it lost by less than 1% in Tuesday’s election.
"We’re still not 100% sure what happened," Chris Hardy with the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce told me. "Obviously disappointed and I just hope that the citizens of Sumter County understand that even though, yes this penny is going away come may of next year, so is our progress that we’ve been making since 2008 on a lot of these projects that have you know increased the value and the quality of our life, increased the value of public services, you know so that’s gonna stop."
Hardy says he went into the vote confident it would be renewed for the third time since 2008, but the majority of Sumter residents like Briton Thames voted no.
"Inflation played a big role in it, I feel like," Thames said about the opposition votes. "And people do feel like it adds up. It may not seem like much, but it does."
Lacey Riles agrees.
"One penny extra on your tax, that’s not too much," Riles said. "But when you’re buying local things everyday that penny turns into 10 and then 20 and then 30, so it’s more than just a penny."
Sumter was one of three counties that voted no, including Clarendon and Lexington counties. Newberry and Orangeburg, however, voted yes to a project sales tax.
This money would have been used to fund projects in the county, such as park enhancements and building renovations. Other items that would have been covered include road repaving and updates to emergency medical service equipment, which Hardy says still needs to get done.
"Which unfortunately could possibly mean the community being taxed in addition to the one cent that we were looking at if this had just passed," Hardy said.
For now, the city will continue to finish the projects it had started from the 2014 penny tax, according to a joint statement from the city and county.
"While the 2022 penny for progress initiative didn’t pass last night; we have completed the 2008 projects and, as promised, the city and county will continue to work to complete the projects from the 2014 penny effort," the statement reads. "The two initiatives combined have invested over $150 million back into our community by paving over 56 roads, adding recreation amenities like a new gymnasium, parks, and playgrounds, upgrading public facilities with a new judicial center, and preserving our historic courthouse. We’ve spurred job creation and millions more through state, federal, and private investment as a result."
Resident James Kelly says he hopes to see it on the ballot in two years.
"It didn’t pass, but just hope and pray next time it will pass," Kelly shared.
As for what residents like Thames hope to see: more focus on social initiatives.
"Drug use has gone rampant, there’s very little services for that," Thames shared. "The homelessness has gotten really out of control. You see them everywhere, and there’s really nothing to be done to help them that I can see."