Public meets with penny sales tax committee - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Public meets with penny sales tax committee

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More than a year ago, Richland County voters increased their own sales tax by a penny to help fund improvements to roadways, sidewalks, greenways, and public transportation.

Those in charge of spending that money were questioned by the public for the first time.

After Monday night's meeting, Jim Lawrence says he's walking away with confidence in the people writing the checks. However, he still has a few questions, like who will pay for maintaining the sidewalks.

"We could just be building a lot of sidewalks that could get over covered by brush and sand," said Lawrence. "Those kind of things are troubling."

The state Transportation Department is supposed to maintain the sidewalks once they're built.. But Lawrence says, based on the answers he gotten, DOT doesn't have the cash to do that.

The county's bus service was short on cash too, pinching pennies according to the director, until they started seeing the penny tax money in the spring. Since then, he says jobs have been saved, new jobs have been added, a new website, and the entire bus service has been rebranded.

"We've gone from having three employees to 11," said executive director Bob Schneider. "Talk about a change in what we do and how we do it. We were able to hire a lot of people, get a lot of things done, and start planning services."

In the next six months, Schneider says you can expect to see new routes, more services, and a pilot program for rural service in the northeast part of the county.

Lawrence, who opposed the tax at first, says he's satisfied with the spending, for now.

"I think they'll do a good job for us, as long as politics doesn't get involved in it, and county council doesn't start pulling the fun and games with their pet projects," said Lawrence.

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