Charleston County voters in November approved a half-cent sales tax increase, which advocates say will raise $2.1 billion to pay for roads, the CARTA public transportation system, and to preserve green areas in Charleston County.
With that new tax approval, however, came calls from some in the business community -- including those who support the tax -- for accountability measures to ensure the funds are spent efficiently and effectively.
“I am obviously very pleased and excited that the voters have spoken because there is a dire need for infrastructure,” Trident CEO Council Chairman Marc Fetten told Palmetto Business Daily shortly after the half-cent tax was passed. "But I want to add this: This is not the end of the process because the political leadership needs to answer very valid concerns.”
Those concerns, according to Fetten, included questions over how the tax revenue would be spent. At the time, he said that politicians need to move forward with transparency, including listing the cost of the projects and laying out a plan for their proper management.
It is now almost five months after Election Day, and Palmetto Business Daily reached out to Charleston County Council Chairman Victor Rawl to follow up on these concerns of transparency and oversight.
According to Rawl, a five-person oversight committee, which will be made up of Charleston County Council members -- and led by Councilman Elliot Summey -- will be formed during the public hearing stage of the process.
That committee, said Rawl, can, if they wish, call on outside professional help for help and advice.
"It should be the clearing house for advice, selection of projects, to evaluate, and make a determination of the scale and the timing of the projects," the chairman said.
The committee was formed but it has not really begun to take any action because money has to accumulate from the sales tax before any planning can begin, Rawl added. Any outside input will come during the public hearing process.
For those hoping that members of the business community would be able to sit on the committee, Rawl said that would not be the case.
"If this committee decides that it needs either professional assistance or outside advice then they can ask for it," he said.
Rawl said he envisions issues with asking for outside help, including that many contractors, or other professionals, who could be tapped for advice may also be bidding for work, which 'creates the appearance of impropriety.'"
Mayor John Tecklenburg, a supporter of the half-cent tax, has been among those urging accountability.
"It's our duty as public servants to work closely with our citizens to ensure that these new transportation and public transit dollars are spent wisely, and only on projects that directly relieve traffic and improve our citizens' quality of life,” Tecklenburg told Palmetto Business Daily in November.