Spartanburg county voters will have one-penny referendum on ballot

Published 1:55 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2017

LANDRUM- City of Landrum and the rest of Spartanburg County voters will have to choose yes or no this November on whether to impose a one-cent sales tax to pay for a new courthouse and other administrative buildings.

Landrum City Council met Aug. 8 and heard from Spartanburg County Councilman Bob Walker during a work session about the potential tax and what it would fund.

The referendum question will be long and is necessary per state law.

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The question includes if a special one percent sales and use tax must be imposed in Spartanburg County for six years to raise the amounts specified for the following purposes:

To replace the current City of Spartanburg and Spartanburg County judicial facilities, to include a new courthouse, city of Spartanburg municipal court/police facilities, Spartanburg County emergency operations center (currently located in the basement of the county courthouse) and associated parking and infrastructure, in one or more structures; replacement of the current City of Spartanburg City Hall and Spartanburg County Administrative building (to include new joint use government center facilities to serve both the City of Spartanburg and Spartanburg County and associated parking and infrastructure, in one or more structures and road and bridge projects (to include the then highest priority projects identified in the county’s capital improvement plan after taking into account the availability of state and other funds).

The referendum will also ask pending the receipt of such sales and use tax, must the county also be authorized to issue and sell general obligation bonds and conditions and restrictions on the use of sales and use tax revenue collected under the capital projects sales tax act.

The total project to replace the buildings and do road and bridge projects is estimated to cost a total of $224,400,000, according to the referendum.

The cost to replace the courthouse, police and emergency operations is estimated at $151,519,154.

The cost to replace the city hall and county administrative building is estimated at $65,326,428 and the road and bridge projects are estimated at $7,554,418.

Walker provided the referendum and questions and answers to city council and the public during last week’s city council meeting.

Walker said if approved by the voters, the one-cent sales tax would begin May 1, 2018 and end on April 30, 2024.

“The sales tax cannot continue past April 30, 2024 unless reauthorized by the voters at another referendum,” Walker said.

The one-cent sales tax would apply to all sales except unprepared food (groceries), prescription medicine, certain maximum tax items such as automobiles and sales of personal property otherwise exempt from state sales tax.

The additional sales tax, according to the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, would generate approximately $37,421,097 per year.

A new judicial center is being proposed in Spartanburg County because the current center, which opened in 1958, is overcrowded and does not meet standards for security or technology, as well as other reasons, including the building is unable to provide separate and secure zones for the public, prisoners, judges, jurors and court staff. The building opened in 1958 with three courtrooms, which has grown over time to 14 courtrooms, with the added courtrooms located in converted office space with inadequate room dimensions and low ceiling heights, Walker said.

The existing city hall and county administration buildings were both constructed in the early 1960s with both having physical issues that impact operating requirements, Walker said.

“Those issues include inappropriate accessibility for mobility-impaired persons, insufficient power and data supply for modern technology and inadequate heating, ventilation and cooling,” Walker said.

The current county administration building was a former Sears Department store, which was adapted for governmental use for the past 30 years approximately.

“A co-located government center presents opportunities to share resources, such as public lobbies, training rooms, conference facilities, health clinics, IT server rooms, storage rooms, fire stairs, mechanical/electrical spaces, public and staff toilets, snack bars, break rooms and other areas,” Walker said in his presentation. “Co-location can also facilitate communication and coordination among the various government functions.

“According to Justice Planning Associates Inc., a city/county government center would be less expensive to construct than two separate facilities and would be less costly to operate and maintain, securely and efficiently.”

The referendum is proposed to be on the Tuesday, Nov. 7 ballot this year.

If the referendum passes in November, Spartanburg County’s sales tax would increase from the current six percent, which is the state sales tax, to seven percent.