Future of Pennies for Progress program to be decided by voters Tuesday

I-77 before. (provided by Pennies for Progress)
I-77 before. (provided by Pennies for Progress)
Hwy. 160 before. (provided by Pennies for Progress)
Hwy. 160 before. (provided by Pennies for Progress)
Hwy. 160 after. (provided by Pennies for Progress)
Hwy. 160 after. (provided by Pennies for Progress)

YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - Tuesday, people in North and South Carolina will be hitting the polls for this year's general election.

In York County, one item on the ballot will impact voters countywide: road improvement.

Seven years have passed, and it is time to vote again on the capital project sales referendum, also known as Pennies for Progress.

In 1997, York County imposed a one percent sales tax on all goods and services. Under South Carolina State law, the money generated from that tax can be used for capital projects. In York County, the sales tax revenue has been used to pay for road improvement projects under the Pennies for Progress program.

The referendum is up for a vote again. If approved this would be the fourth time Pennies for Progress has passed and citizens would continue paying the one percent sales tax for the next seven years.

Program Manager Patrick Hamilton says with more people moving into York County, the estimated revenue generated in Pennies for Progress four would be roughly $278 million, the largest budget the program has had yet.

"Traffic is already bad now," Hamilton said. "So it's just going to continue to get worse without key improvements that Pennies four will hopefully be able to provide."

In the last 20 years, Pennies for Progress has widened, created and repaved a number of crowded roadways including Highway 160 from I-77 to Gold Hill Road, Fort Mill Southern and Northern bypasses, Highway 5 West, Herlong Avenue and India Hook Road.

However, Paul Anderko will not be voting yes to another seven years of Pennies for Progress. Anderko was put on the Ad Hoc Citizens Committee at the beginning of the year to see how efficient and successful Pennies for Progress has been.

Anderko says for six months he and others on the committee reviewed Pennies for Progress.

He says they found a history of budget shortfalls in Pennies, one, two and three.

"It has a lot of flaws, I believe that the money that they are going to collect is going to have a shortfall of $18 million to $20 million," Anderko said. "Projects from Pennies one get pushed to Pennies two, projects from Pennies two get pushed to Pennies three."

Hamilton admitted to budget problems in previous years. He said there was an issue with cost estimations.

"We dug much deeper to develop that cost estimate," Hamilton explained. "We hired a right-away agent to look at every parcel along that property, to look at the zoning of the parcel, to look at comparable sales and estimate what the right-of-way would cost on that project. That hasn't been done before."

"We reached out to all the utility companies prior to setting the cost estimate and asked 'hey this is what we are planning to do on this road, can you look at what utility services you have and give us a ballpark cost of what it would take to relocate them if we need to relocate them."

Hamilton says projects that were not completed in prior pennies, could be finished, but are not guaranteed to be complete. He says the unfinished projects will be prioritized based on need by a commission of citizens. He says whatever money is left in the next Pennies session will be used to finish previous projects, first on the list and down.

If Pennies for Progress does not pass on Tuesday, Hamilton says they will finish the projects they can with the money they have in the account now.

He adds that the state does not give enough funding to improve roads based on the amount of people moving to York County. He also says the gas tax hike that was imposed this summer to improve roads will mostly go toward bridge improvement, and not so much to resolving traffic problems.

For more information about Pennies for Progress visit its website here: www.penniesforprogress.net

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