Taxpayers Fighting Bond Stir Up A Crowd

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby

October 18, 2005
A packed house is expected Tuesday in the Aiken County Council Chambers as council members vote on a bond. Builders of a new Aiken County development want to use that bond to pay for its streets and water connection. That’s upset many in Aiken County. News 12 is on your side with why taxpayer uproar may now change state law.

They’ve showed up at smaller meetings, ran ads in the paper and spoke out strong: opponents of Tax Increment Financing, or TIF.

“I’ve been with the county for 22 years and I’ve never seen an issue that has sparked the public interest like this,” said Joan Donnelly, Assistant County Administrator.

That’s why Aiken County Council is preparing for a big turnout for Tuesday’s vote on TIF.

County workers spent the day posting safety signs and setting up extra chairs in council chambers. And if the extra chairs aren’t enough, an overflow room is set up in the auditorium. This seats about 100 people and they can watch the meeting on TV.

Still not enough room? It may not be. So, chairs and speakers are ready to go outside.

“We’re also going to ask people to sign a sheet saying if they’re for or against the TIF, just so we can get some idea of how the crowd feels,” Donnelly said.

That vocal crowd may be heard in Columbia, too. Representative Rowland Smith voted for TIF to become law in 2004. It was meant for blighted areas, but words including property with wetlands were added at the last minute. Smith, like many local lawmakers, regrets his vote and wants to change the TIF law next season.

“We need to look number one at changing that language back to what it was originally or I prefer to look at totally eliminating the TIF,” Smith said.

All this because a few taxpayers started fighting and gained momentum.

“It drives home the fact that it’s important for the citizens to be involved in government,” Smith said.

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