A Vote for the One-cent Sales and Use Tax for Education Capital Projects is a Vote for Lower Taxes

By Paul Gable

There is an interesting dynamic going on in the electorate with respect to the local referendum to keep in place a one-cent sales and use tax for education capital projects.

Many people I consider politically savvy are voicing opposition to voting “Yes” on this referendum question. The general complaint I am seeing on social media is voters are tired of voting for more taxes.

I understand that attitude. Many people retired down here to escape the high taxes in the northeast and Midwest. They don’t want to see the creeping increases in taxes they experienced during their working lives in those parts of the country.

The conundrum here is that by voting “No”, in other words voting against the referendum to reimpose the education sales and use tax, voters are voting for higher taxes in most cases.

I moved to Horry County in 1983. In the intervening 39+ years, I have seen two new school attendance districts formed, Carolina Forest and St. James, with the necessary primary, elementary, middle and high schools built to serve those new districts. As a point of reference, Carolina Forest at that time was a tree farm for International Paper. No homes or businesses existed there.

In addition, every other school district in the county has added new schools and expanded existing ones. Myrtle Beach High School was an old building on Kings Highway at that time.

The population of Horry County has more than doubled, actually it’s moving strongly to tripling, since I first moved to Horry County. The Horry County School District has added approximately 1,000 new students each year for decades and continues to do so. More new schools and expansion of existing ones are a continuous process in order to provide our next generations with the best facilities and equipment to obtain a good education. We owe them no less.

I have heard the question ‘I have no children in school, why should I pay taxes for schools?’ The simple answer is we benefitted from a lot of people who had no children school, but paid taxes for schools, when we were attending those schools way back in the dark ages. It is a selfish argument with no merit.

To the nitty gritty.

The One-cent Sales and Use Tax for Education Capital Projects has been collected in Horry County for the past nearly 15 years. Voting “Yes” on the referendum merely extends this tax for another 15 years. It does not add any new taxes. The advantage of this type of tax to fund school construction is that tourists to our area pay more than 60% of the revenue collected.

If the referendum fails, property taxes for school bond indebtedness throughout Horry County will almost immediately increase. That portion of school property taxes has remained a steady 10 mills for the past 15 years. According to sources familiar with school construction costs, that 10 mill tax would increase to as much as 55 mills almost immediately. In other words, look at your tax bill, see the section labeled school district debt and multiply that amount by five and one-half times to see how much your property taxes would increase if the referendum to extend the sales tax is defeated. Your property taxes will go up.

Or, vote “Yes” on the referendum to reimpose the education sales tax for another 15 years and your current tax burden will remain basically the same as it has been for the past 15 years and the tourists will continue to contribute to Horry County school construction.

The choice, just on the basis of a dollars and cents basis, should be obvious.

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