Mayor’s Column

  • Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On Nov. 5 voters in Summerville and Dorchester County will go to the polls to have their say on raising the sales tax by a penny – from seven to eight cents – in our county. This Local Option Sales Tax is permitted by law but must be approved by voters.

By law, 71 percent of the money it raises must be returned to property owners as a credit on their tax bill. Dorchester County Council has voted to return all of it as a tax credit because they are concerned that Dorchester County has the highest property taxes in the three county area – higher than Charleston or Berkeley.

Charleston and Berkeley voters approved this sales tax increase years ago and most Summervillians are paying it already when they shop at Azalea Square, Lowe’s, Home Depot or WalMart on North Main, the malls in Charleston County, Tanger Outlet or downtown Charleston.

One thing I’ve learned in my 28 months as Summerville mayor is that residents want government to do more and more for them. Residents constantly ask for road and sidewalk improvements, more police and fire protection, more street lights, more trash pickup, and more parks and recreation facilities. I listen attentively but as of the moment, no one has brought me any ideas for additional revenues to pay for their requests. Passage of LOST could be another revenue stream for the town down the road.

I urge every property owner to take a close look at LOST, think about where they do most of their shopping, analyze what it would mean to them personally and vote accordingly. The tax would not only be paid by our residents who shop in Dorchester, it would be paid by the thousands of tourists who come through here every year.

I will vote for LOST because it will benefit me and my wife and, I think it could be good for the town.

* * *

Earlier this month I was privileged to attend a seminar on city design held in Charleston. The Mayor’s Institute on City Design is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors. Founded in 1986 by Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be chief urban designers in their cities.

The Institute brings together six to eight mayors for an intensive two-and-a-half day retreat to learn best practices from the nation’s leading architects, planners, urban designers, and traffic engineers. Mayors present case study projects in their cities and the resource team and other mayors share their expertise and insight. The event is paid for entirely by the Mayors’ Institute at no cost to any of the cities involved or the mayors. Attending with me were the mayors of Jacksonville, Fl, Kansas City, KS, Lowell, Mass., Yonkers, NY, Salem, Oregon, and Gary, IN.

I talked about Colonial Dorchester and the collaboration our town will be doing with the State Parks, Recreation and Tourism department on that historic site. The group offered some interesting ideas that I will be sharing later with you and the team that begins work on Summerville’s master plan next month.

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