York County voters will go to the polls Nov. 7 to determine the fate of the most expensive roads-fix plan ever proposed here.
Supporters say a proposed fourth phase of Pennies for Progress, at a price of nearly $300 million, has the potential to improve infrastructure that would impact citizens from Rock Hill and Fort Mill in eastern York County to Sharon in western York County.
Opponents say the program is promising more than it can deliver, which could lead to cost overruns.
Voters hold the power Tuesday to extend the life of the 20-year-old Pennies for Progress program — or cut it short.
The tax for Pennies 3, the current road projects funding plan, runs out April 30, 2018. If Pennies 4 is approved, it would begin levying the same tax on May 1, 2018. The tax period would last for seven years.
Pennies for Progress has helped raise nearly $700 million to build, extend or rehabilitate streets and highways in York County. The plan raises money by levying a 1-percent county tax on certain goods and services. If you go to the movies in Rock Hill or shop at places like Home Depot or Dollar General or get work done on your car, you’re contributing to Pennies for Progress.
Grocery bills, car payments and mortgages aren’t affected. Nor are you paying extra at the gas pump.
Because a significant chunk of money comes from visitors spending money in the area, most people don’t realize they’re paying a little extra, according to Pennies program leader Patrick Hamilton.
“It’s a continuation of something a generation of people have been paying to support,” Hamilton said earlier this year. “A lot of people don’t know they’re even paying it. To pay into this program is very minimal.”
You can see details of the Capital Projects Sales Tax Referendum here.
A list of possible roads projects that would be financed by the fourth phase of Pennies for Progress was released earlier this year.
See the interactive map below to find more information on proposed Pennies for Progress 4 roads projects in York County.
The $277.92 million Pennies 4 project on Tuesday’s ballot would pay:
▪ $167.92 million for intersection, widening and new road improvement projects.
▪ $60 million for five projects carried over from the 2011 Pennies 3 referendum.
▪ $50 million for more than 80 miles of asphalt resurfacing countywide.
Among the top-dollar projects included in Tuesday’s referendum are $40.51 million for a five-lane widening of Cel-River/Red Road from Eden Terrace to Dave Lyle Boulevard and the Galleria Boulevard extension in Rock Hill, and $35.88 million for a five-lane widening of U.S. 120 from S.C. 160 to Springfield Parkway in Fort Mill.
For the first time, Pennies for Progress has earmarked $50 million for resurfacing projects on more than 80 miles of roads in Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Lake Wylie/Clover, and western York County.
$676 million Pennies for Progress has raised $676 million for York County roads dating back to 1997.
However, some residents say they’re worried that future Pennies projects will either fall through the cracks or exceed their cost projections.
Funding ran short by $60 million for five projects originally approved in the Pennies 3 referendum. Those projects -- fixes to S.C. 557, S.C. 160 East, Riverview Road, Mount Gallant, and S.C. 72 -- have been pushed into the plan that voters will decide Tuesday.
Paul Anderko, an opponent of the plan, recently served on a citizens committee that looked into the internal workings of the previous Pennies projects in 2016.
Anderko said he opposes Pennies 4 because it will over-promise and under-deliver. He said he doubts that $277.92 million will be raised from the 1-percent tax within seven years and believes it will provide additional strain on the existing projects.
Anderko said he’d rather see the previous Pennies 2 and Pennies 3 projects be completed under budget before he feels comfortable paying for new projects. He said he’s doing a public service to oppose Pennies because it will “keep them honest.”
If Pennies 4 were to be voted down, he said he would advocate for three projects in a new referendum:
▪ Repaving and maintenance on current roads, to the tune of $140 million.
▪ Placing any project not already completed at the top of the priority list.
▪ Prioritizing other funds to aid intersections.
“It’ll make sure they know they’re going to be watched,” he said.
1 percent Pennies for Progress raises money by levying a 1-percent county tax on certain goods and services.
State law requires that money raised by Pennies for Progress be used only for York County roads, and each project must be properly identified in advance. York County residents pick the roads, plan them, and ultimately vote the projects into action.
The process starts by creating a six-member commission that holds public hearings in York County and takes suggestions for projects.
“Pennies works, most importantly, because it’s the one thing that belongs to the people,” said Jerry Helms, who has been part of every Pennies list-forming committee since the first referendum in 1997.
How you can vote
York County voters will have the chance to either continue or stop the Pennies for Progress program by voting on Nov. 7 at their local precinct.
The vote is officially named the Capital Projects Sales Tax Referendum.