Local

August 12, 2014

1-cent sales tax referendum on Chester ballot

Additional sales tax would fund 58 projects scattered throughout Chester County.

Chester County voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to the county should continue to impose a 1-cent sales tax. If approved, the tax extension would raise $13.5 million for 58 projects ranging from athletic field and roof repairs to new construction.

The Chester County Council on Monday approved putting a referendum on the November ballot.

Estimated costs range from $10,000 for roof work at the Department of Juvenile Justice to $2 million each for a “spec” building to attract new businesses and a sewer connection to the new Giti Tire plant.

“There’s something for everybody” in the list of projects, said County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey.

Voters will be asked to approve a referendum on all of the projects. They cannot vote on individual projects.

Chester County currently has a 1-cent sales tax that funded expansions at the county detention center. The 1-cent sales tax expires in July.

More than $26 million in projects from the county, city, school district, fire department and sewer district were suggested to a six-member committee which reviewed projects.

The committee had to reduce the list of projects to $13.5 million, the amount a 1-cent sales tax should collect over a six-year period.

To reduce the list, the committee eliminated the “pie-in-the sky” projects such as $5 million for improvements at the S.C. 99 business park, a new government complex for the city of Chester at $2.7 million, as well as items that usually are part of annual budget requests, such as vehicles.

Mike Enoch, chairman of the committee and the general manager for Chester Natural Gas, said the selected projects fall into two categories: “soft,” such as improvements to parks and athletic fields, and “hard,” such as building new fire stations or rehabilitating sewer lines.

The projects should keep the county and localities from raising taxes or fees, Enoch said.

Building new fire substations in North Chester and Fort Lawn – at a cost of $125,000 each – also could cut residents’ fire insurance by up to 50 percent because they would be closer to a fire house, Enoch said.

Spending $300,000 to replace a Great Falls sewer line over the Brooklyn Bridge should keep town residents from paying a higher sewer fee or taxes, Enoch said.

One project could improve how long it takes to get victims of serious accidents to a hospital. The Chester County Department of Emergency Services asked for $16,800 to build new helipads near the two exit ramps on Interstate 77. The pads would allow helicopters to land close to the accidents. Currently, roads are closed when medivac helicopters respond to a serious accident.

The county also wants to use $2 million of sales-tax revenue to help offset the cost of providing sewer services to the new Giti Tire plant.

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