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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Council voted against a proposed one penny increase to the sales tax.
Only 10 out of the 11 council members voted 6 to 4 to kill the proposal. The proposal had reached the third reading as of Tuesday night.
Richland County officials said the extra tax would have been used to improve roads and public transportation.
Once again, there is uncertainty about funding for the Central Midlands Regional Transit system.
Councilman Norman Jackson voted against the tax measure and the half-million dollar study that preceded it.
"My concern was that the study just included a penny sales tax and that was it. And for 500 thousand dollars, I don't think we really got what we paid for," Jackson said.
With the tax shot down, the transit authority has new worries about running out of money by next June or, if diesel fuel remains expensive, even earlier.
CMRTA Director Mitzi Javers paints an outlook for the coming year for the bus system.
"It is likely that that funding won't be sufficient to get us all the way through the county's current fiscal year," Javers said. "So that leaves things very uncertain for people who are depending on public transit, come late next spring, early summer."
Talk about bad timing. Just as more drivers are considering taking the bus to save on gas, the bus system could end up getting cut back, some routes eliminated.
"We're taking calls every day of new folks who would like to make a choice to be able to ride public transit," Javers said.
Bus rider Victoria Hallamon wouldn't be happy without her route. She says without the route in place, she would be a "sweaty, hot, angry person walking around Columbia."
Jackson says the council will do whatever it can to keep the buses running.
"Council can come up with some formula to fund the bus system," Jackson said. "So I want citizens to be aware that there's no danger of them losing the bus system."
Had the proposal been approved, it would put on the ballot in November for the voters to decide on.
At the same time in Sumter County, council members voted with a unanimous yes vote. People who live in Sumter are one step closer to deciding whether the penny tax increase happens.
In Tuesday night's public hearing, council members heard mixed opinions.
"How in the world can we afford another penny tax? I can't," Sumter resident Lloyd Jones said.
Right now, people in Sumter County pay 7 cents on every dollar they spend in the county.
Under the proposal, the penny tax hike would exist for 7 years, then, voters would decide whether to keep it.
If voters approve the measure, the $70 million in expected revenue would go toward building three new community centers, renovating the exhibition center and building a new judicial center.
"If we don't do it through a penny sales tax, every tax payer, every business in Sumter County is going to pay 100 percent of it," Sumter resident Will Holmes said.
Council member Eugene Baten voted yes because he wants the people to decide if the sales tax will go up, but he doesn't support the plan.
"That will place an additional hardship on the constituents as well as other low-income people in Sumter County," Baten said. "Our economy is in shambles with no foreseeable change in the future."
Sumter County Council will have a 3rd and final reading on the sales tax proposal August 12.
If council members approve it, the referendum goes on the ballot in November.