By Paul Gable
On the November 8, 2022 general election ballot, Horry County voters will be asked to approve the reimposition of the one-cent Education Capital Improvement Sales and Use Tax for an additional 15 years.
The revenue from this tax is used to keep millage low on property tax for debt indebtedness levied by the Horry County School District throughout Horry County. The current property tax for debt indebtedness by Horry County Schools is 10 mills.
In November 2008, Horry County voters approved a referendum to collect a one-cent local option Education Capital Improvement Sales and Use Tax. The tax will end in March 2024 unless it is reimposed with a new referendum. Since the one-cent sales tax was first approved, property tax millage for school bond indebtedness has been reduced from 28 mills to 10 mills.
Revenue from the tax may be used for capital improvements. It may not be used for salaries, benefits and other personnel costs.
Since its beginning in 2008, the revenue from the tax has been used by the Horry County School District for:
- New Building Construction
- Additions and Improvements to Existing Facilities
- Interior Fixtures and Furnishings
- Paving Loop Roads and Fire Lanes
- Drainage and Irrigation
- Athletic Facilities and Playgrounds
- Fire Alarms and Security Systems
The Horry County School District adds an additional 1,000 new students each year on average. Each addition of 1,000 new students requires a new school facility to be constructed in addition to the structural repairs, additions and improvements required on existing facilities. Current costs of new school construction are $50 million for primary and elementary schools, $75 million for middle schools and $100 million for high schools.
Horry County is the only county in the state that splits the revenues from the one-cent sales tax among PK-12 and higher education institutions. Horry County Schools receives 80% of the proceeds, Coastal Carolina University 13.3% and Horry Georgetown Technical College 6.7%.
The choice for voters is as follows:
A Yes vote means the current one-cent sales tax for education capital projects will be collected for another 15 years. School property tax millage for bond indebtedness funding capital projects will remain the same even though additional schools and upgrades to current schools will continue. The same one-cent sales tax for education that has been charged throughout the county since 2009 will remain the same. In other words, no tax increase even though school construction and upgrading will continue.
An added benefit to Horry County taxpayers is that over 60% of the revenue generated from the one-cent sales tax is collected from tourists and other visitors to the county, according to several studies completed.
A No vote means property tax millage for school bonds will be increased from the current 10 mills to approximately 44 mills just to meet the ongoing construction needs of the school district. That property tax increase amounts to over $400 per year on a $200,000 house as well as proportional increases on all other property taxed in the county.
If the referendum passes, Horry County property owners will shift over 60% of the cost of school construction from their wallets to the wallets of tourists.
The referendum question approved for the ballot is quite a long one because of the transparency included for voters. It goes into considerable detail of exactly what the revenue will be spent on by the school district as well as CCU and HGTC.
The question for Horry County voters is quite simple: Do you want to pay the entire cost of school capital projects yourselves or do you want to shift over 60% of that cost to tourists?