FLORENCE, S.C. — The Florence County Council could be taking the first step toward getting the third penny sales tax projects underway Thursday.
On the agenda at the 9 a.m. meeting of the council is the introduction of an ordinance that would allow the county to issue $120 million in general obligation bonds.
The bonds could be related to the reimplementation of the penny sales tax.
County Administrator K.G. "Rusty" Smith Jr. previously indicated the county's plan, if voters approved the reimplementation of a penny sales tax, was to issue $120 million in bonds and begin work on the projects as soon as possible. The remaining $20 million or more of expected revenue would be used as the county received it.
The penny tax proposal was approved by around 70% of the voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
The ballot question asked Florence County residents to reimpose the 1% sales tax for seven years beginning May 1, 2021, to provide for $141.7 million in improvement projects throughout the county. Those projects include $66 million for municipal projects including $40 million to the city of Florence for road repairs, $38.7 million in county council district road and infrastructure improvements, including the districts representing parts of the city, plus $23.47 million for fire and public safety and $13.13 million in general county improvements.
The Florence County Council voted in mid-July to add the referendum to the ballot.
The process of developing the ballot question and getting it on the Nov. 3 ballot began in October 2019 when the county council approved the creation of a six-person commission tasked with developing the question.
At that October meeting, the council appointed Scotty Campbell, William Kelley and Raleigh Ward to the three seats it got to fill. Later, the city of Florence appointed Ronnie Jebaily and Swaggard to the two seats it got to appoint to the commission. Jebaily and Swaggard then appointed the last member of the commission, Daniel Ellerbe of Quinby.
On June 10, the meeting of the sales tax commission was held. First, the commission held a vote to adjourn with plans to meet again to have time to review the proposed ballot question. However, that vote failed as the commission was deadlocked at 3-3 with the three county appointees voting against the motion and the three directly or indirectly city-appointed members voting for it.
Later, after assurances from the mayors present — each municipality except the city of Florence had a representative at the meeting — that their lists were already prioritized, Ronnie Jebaily changed his vote and voted in favor of the proposed ballot question, making the final vote 4-2 to recommend the question to the county.
In other action items Thursday, the council is expected to consider an emergency ordinance extending a request for county residents to wear face masks, the second reading of an ordinances rezoning property near Ebenezer and Pisgah Roads and authorizing a development agreement with Pee Dee Electric Cooperative.
The council will also likely consider resolutions recognizing Eagle Scout Caleb Beckley for his efforts to provide new kiosks at the Florence Veterans Park, recognizing the 150th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, and authorizing the extension of investment periods in fee in lieu of tax agreements between Charles Ingram Lumber Company and Willow Creek Lumber Company.
The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Room 803 of the Florence County Complex at 180 N. Irby St. As it has been since April, the meeting will be closed to the public but viewable via the county's website, florenceco.org.
To view the meeting on the website, click "Public Meeting Live Streams" near the bottom of the homepage.