I’m starting early this year with information to help educate and inform you on the 1 percent Transportation Sales Tax that I support. It is one of two referendums on the ballot for you to vote “yes” or “no” on.

This 1 percent Transportation Sales Tax would be in effect for four years, or until $120 million is reached (whichever comes first).

This is an important topic, and I will talk about it at every Town Hall and club or civic group I visit.

This proposed tax has three main components:

  • $80 million dollars is our share of the $240 million total cost to replace both sets of bridges on and off of Hilton Head Island, as well as make changes to the dangerous Pinckney Island and Windmill Harbour intersections.

Also included are improvements for public safety and traffic flow from Windmill Harbour to Squire Pope Road, including a “bulb” at the intersection leading into Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort and Marina.

The remaining $160 million is being funded by the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank.

The bridges must be replaced for motorists’ safety.

This set of bridge replacements and traffic improvements to Squire Pope is also the final piece of the complete traffic calming work from the original 278 corridor study.

By going through a 1 percent Transportation Sales Tax, we are not only using the “cheapest” money available, but, because more than 50 percent to 60 percent of the sales taxes collected in this county comes from Hilton Head Island, the lion’s share of this will be paid by tourists.

I would much rather see a tax of 1 cent per $1 than I would more bonding or property tax increases, etc.

  • $30 million dollars is the cost for the Lady’s Island “hub” traffic and road improvements. Lady’s Island is seeing a tremendous amount of growth around its center, and traffic and roads must accommodate it.
  • For a long, long time now, voters across the county have requested more Pathways for Progress to be installed – including sidewalks from residential areas to schools and more trail-type accessibility throughout the county.

The $10 million final amount from the sales tax will take care of the very long list of these projects.

It is important to know a couple of things:

  1. This money can be spent only on the three topics outlined in the referendum.
  2. If the $120 million is raised quicker than four years, then the tax is removed and reverted back to where we are now (6 percent) and it’s over.

Once four years passes, the added 1 percent sales tax is ended, and we have whatever the total is at that point.

In my opinion, we will collect the necessary funds sooner rather than later.

If you would like the formal version of the proposed referendum, email me at mcovert@bcgov.net, and I will see that a copy is sent to you.

Michael E. Covert represents District 7 on Beaufort County Council. mcovert@bcgov.net