The York County Council has given its staff the green light to lay the groundwork for continuing the 'Pennies for Progress' road improvements program, meaning the 1-cent sales tax would again be on the ballot in 2010.
County officials don't know if the first wave of 1997 projects will be done by then, or what projects voted on in 2003 still will need money, but they plan to convince the voters to continue the program.
What the county does know is that current projections have the tax reaching $173 million sometime in 2010. The tax expires when it reaches its cap or after seven years.
The County Council on Monday unanimously approved moving forward with putting the tax on the ballot for a third time in June 2010 after praising the program's success over the past decade.
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"We've got to have another round of Pennies for Progress," Councilman Rick Lee said. "Ten thousand people moved into the county this year. ... The only way to do this is Pennies for Progress. We can't count on anything else."
About half the road improvement projects voted on in 1997 are complete, with S.C. 274, from Wedgefield Road to S.C. 49, and S.C. 901, from Albright Road to Interstate 77, recently starting construction.
Only part of one 2003 program project is complete, the intersection of S.C. 5 and Shiloh Road. A couple of the other intersection improvement projects are under construction, and the rest of the projects are in planning stages.
The program is pay-as-you-go now, and County Manager Jim Baker said they are considering if financing the projects would help get them done at costs closer to their original estimates.
The tax narrowly passed in 1997, and had much more support its second time on the ballot in 2003. During the past decade, the initial program has suffered from many shortfalls, and the county still is determining how make up for its most recent $22.8 million shortfall.
Paul Lindemann, the County Council member representing the Fort Mill area, said despite shortfalls, Pennies keeps York County on top of the state. Councilman Tom Smith agreed, saying there could be some projects from the 2003 program left to make up in 2010, but if the county drops the program, it would be moving backward.
The next step is forming a residents committee to review what road projects would be considered in the next program. While Baker said the county already is compiling a list of roads to look at, he said they'll also start soliciting projects to consider from area municipalities.
Western York County residents have criticized Pennies for Progress for spending more on roads in the Rock Hill and Fort Mill areas. Joe Cox, the councilman who represents the area, said there should be someone from his district on the committee.
June 2010 is the target to vote on the tax so there isn't lag time in collecting the money from the current installment. But state law says the vote must happen in a general election, though the county hopes to lobby for a change in that law.
To show residents the county's commitment to the program, Lee said the county should continue to build quality projects instead of scaling them back to save money.
"We have to follow through," he said. "We can't cut projects. ... I can't tell you how essential this is to our area."