Aiken Co. students, taxpayers express concern over penny sales tax proposal

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News 12 This Morning/Thursday March 27, 2014

AIKEN CO., S.C. (WRDW) -- As South Carolina state representatives debate whether counties can start using penny sales taxes, the Aiken County School Board has already voted in a recommendation for how to use a penny sales tax to help Aiken County schools.

This first proposal is $125 million to go to building upgrades at North Augusta High School and Aiken High School.

"It's not a lot of money. [It's not] worth much," Lacey Mabli said.

Lacey is 8-years-old in the 2nd grade at Millbrook Elementary. She and her grandmother say they hope the community would support a penny sales tax, but that the money will go toward more than just two schools.

She says there are things she'd like fixed at her school too.

"The breezeway," she explained. "When it's raining, you don't want to get wet but when I'm in the classroom I want an umbrella."

It's a concern for taxpayers as well.

William Boatwright, 23, has lived in Aiken County all his life and says supports funding for the school system, but thinks it should go toward more than building restoration.

"Is it going to bring teachers? Is it going to bring classrooms? Are class sizes going to go down? Why are we going to do buildings?" Boatwright said.

Another worry of Boatright's is the money may not go toward the school's he feels need it the most.

"What's the point in the penny tax proposal if it's only for two schools? I mean, there's no point in raising money for two schools when there's multiple schools that need the facility updates," he said.

Board members tell 12 this is just an initial proposal and they're planning to use penny tax money for other schools too.

"If they're proposing for two schools up front then why don't they just propose for all the schools? I mean, how do we know they're going to spend that money on other schools," Boatwright said.

The chair tells us building maintenance is important because there are facilities as old as 90 years old and they need the money to help keep them running.

Again, this option may not pass. House state reps have until June 30 to decide whether school systems can ask taxpayers if they want to approve the use of a penny sales tax.

If the decision isn't made by the, districts will have to wait until 2016 to have this discussion again.

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