Mon, May 20, 2024

Potential $285 million to fund school upgrades and property tax relief

Aiken County voters will be asked to decide the fate of the current one-cent sales tax that is funding projects in the school district.

School district leadership outlined the value of continuing the tax during the April 18 Good Morning North Augusta Breakfast sponsored by the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce.

Superintendent King Laurence told ABD it is important for the district to provide top-quality education in state-of-the-art facilities. He said it is important for students, teachers, and the community.

“When businesses and families come to an area, one of the first things they want to look at is the schools. So, we need to be a showcase for our part of South Carolina and our part of the CSRA. So that when these businesses are looking to relocate into the area, when families are looking to come here, we have a lot to offer them,” he said.

The current one-cent special sales tax, approved by voters in 2014, took effect in 2015. In that time, it funded several major projects including additions and renovations to Aiken High School and North Augusta High School, along with improvements at the Career and Technology Center.

“We’ve still got some buildings that are 60-plus years old, so they don’t handle the infrastructure very well, for modern education, and for modern society in general,” he explained. “We really need to get up to date with technology and up to date with safety and security. We can do that with new construction. We can do that, bringing all of our facilities up to modern standards.”

A new gymnasium was built at Aiken High School with the current one-cent sales tax.

Laurence brought with him the man chosen to succeed him when Laurence retires later this year to help lay out the vision of what impact extending the tax can have on the district.

Dr. Corey Murphy is currently the Chief Officer of Operations & Student Services for the Aiken County Public School District.

He said the process leading up to the public vote is underway. It will include a series of public meetings, set for May and June, to solicit input on what the public would like to see funded with the tax.

Dr. Corey Murphy will take over as superintendent when King Laurence retires.

“We’re thinking it’s going to raise $285 million potentially. Some of that money has been reserved for property tax relief,” he said. “We want to make sure you all are aware of some of the things we’re thinking about, potential projects here. South Aiken High, Silver Bluff, Midland Valley High School. They’re all in great need of renovation and remodeling.”

Laurence said one of the selling points for continuing the special tax is that 10% is set aside to provide property tax relief for citizens. Add to that the fact it is not just county residents paying the extra penny.

“One of the things that we like to remind people is that about 30% of the income from the sales tax comes from non-residents. So, when people come here for the Masters, when people come here for the Aiken Steeplechase and other events in our area, when people come here, they’re spending money,” he said. “So, we are building facilities, improving safety and security, and doing all these things without all of the burden falling on our citizens. And in fact, we’re actually helping our citizens with that property tax relief.”

A fact that is not lost on North Augusta Mayor Briton Williams, who told ABD the one-cent special sales taxes have been very positive for the community.

“It’s allowed us to build projects really faster than we could be doing it. And the great thing about it is it’s not just you and I as a local citizen,” he said. “Think about all the people who come to the Nike Peach Jam. Everyone who comes over from Augusta. Guess what? They help pay for schools. So, it’s spread out and I think it’s been very positive for Aiken County and has been very positive for North Augusta.”

The current special tax expires in early Feb. 2025. The referendum extending it will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot this year. If approved by voters, the extension will begin in March 2025.

Subscribe to our eNewsletter for the BEST local business news delivered to your Inbox each week day.

* indicates required

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Posts

No room at the inn!

Great news on the manufacturing front in both Augusta and Aiken. Mike Petchenik has more in this week’s Biz Bits. Subscribe to our eNewsletter for

Hitting Rock Bottom

Stephanie Stuckey’s turnaround in the family brand is nothing short of remarkable. Recently, she told our ABD’s Inspire 24 audience how it almost didn’t happen

Brews, bites, and barks

Sometimes, business dreams are worth waiting for. When Andrew Phifer, an engineer, and his wife, Rachel, an accountant, found themselves more apart than together because