Hear About The Capital Initiative
TODAY: Next County Council Meeting Is About Capital Projects Sales Tax
Anyone interested in learning more about The Capital Initiative - a 1-cent local sales tax that will be on the Laurens County General Election Ballot in November, 2020 - is invited to attend the Tuesday night meeting of the Laurens County Council.
Council is inviting the mayors and councils of the county’s municipalities - Laurens, Clinton and Gray Court - for this special presentation. It also is open to the public.
The meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 13, 5:30 pm in the county council chambers, second floor of the historic courthouse in downtown Laurens. A lift is available at the ground level to assist anyone who has trouble climbing stairs.
The county council will appoint 3 members for the Capital Projects Review Committee - the 3 municipalities will appoint 3 members. After that, the county’s responsibility ends, and no public money can be spent persuading people to vote, pro or con.
This committee sets the projects and writes the ballot question, which will be advertised in advance of the public vote.
If the referendum passes, an additional 1-cent of sales tax will be levied for 7 years. If the referendum fails, it cannot be brought forth again for 2 years - the next General Election.
This Capital Initiative cannot be voted on during a special election.
The meetings of the Laurens County Council - the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month in Laurens - are open to the public. -- Vic MacDonald, Editor
ALSO: $7.5M Is County’s Proposed Bond Issue Total
By Vic MacDonald
By Thanksgiving, Laurens County could be ready to approach the nation’s bond markets with a $7.5 million refinancing offer. In the process of retiring its debt, taking advantage of near-historically low interest rates, the county expects to save $100,000.
County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks said the county can make the bond offer now that its credit standing has been restored; that was announced earlier this month by County Administrator Jon Caime.
The $7.5 million breaks down this way:
-- $3.2 million for new roof, lighting and HVAC at the Hillcrest Square Judicial/Services Center and $700,000 for repairs at the historic courthouse in downtown Laurens – this will be a repayment from bond proceeds to the county reserves used to pay for the work (Hillcrest done, historic courthouse next); total $4M; and
-- $3.5 million left on a 2010 bond that paid for an addition to the Johnson Detention Center; this loan at 3.5% interest will be paid off in 2025.
Still on the books will be a bond at 2.3% that built the Administrative Wing at Hillcrest (allowing the county to close a building on Church St., Laurens). That bond will be retired in 2023, and Cruickshanks said the county could “save a little” if it wrapped all three bonds together for the current 1.7% interest rate.
He did not recommend that, seeing that the 2013 bond is so close to retirement at a relatively low interest rate.
The county also will determine the cost for emergency HVAC work at the Laurens Library, which was closed two days this month because of excessive heat and no air conditioning.
The county could fund this work through emergency reserves, or put it in the new $7.5 million bond issue. The work also may include a change-out to LED lighting (reducing the tonnage needed for replacement air conditioners).
Council Chairman Dr. David Pitts asked Cruickshanks if they could speed up the process – “I don’t want that interest rate to go up.” The attorney said no, 1st reading by title of a bond ordinance was given last Tuesday, 2nd reading will be in August (full ordinance), then there must be a 60-day “cooling off period” before 3rd and final reading.
By state law, Laurens County’s bond limit is $16 million.
Bonds are repaid through property taxes. Laurens County Council wants to limit these pay-backs to 10 years – the 2013 bond set at 15 years was for $6 million to expand the county jail.
In a separate money-matter, on Aug. 13, county council and representatives of the three county municipalities – Laurens, Clinton and Gray Court – will hear specifics about the county’s Capital Initiative.
A 6-person panel will determine which big-ticket projects will be proposed for a Capital Project Sales Tax on the November, 2020 ballot. If approved by voters, a 1-cent local option sales tax will be levied, and just the projects approved by the voters will be done with the money – projected to be $44 million over the 7-year life of the sales tax.
Then, it will sunset. It can come back only if approved again by a majority of county voters, with a new set of projects.
Projects likely to be discussed are more complete renovation of the Historic Courthouse ($3M, full restoration estimated at $10M), a new EMS/911 Center, a new library for Clinton, a District 56-55 Career Center, an Agriculture/Equestrian Center near Laurens, and a Laurens County swimming-only area on Lake Greenwood.
The projects will be studied for several months before the 6-person panel will craft the ballot question and present it to the County Elections and Registration Commission to be on the November, 2020 ballot. These initiatives can be voted on only during general election years.