Hospitality Tax survives after city council vote

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Monday, Feb. 22, 2016 News 12 NBC 26 News at 11

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's a tax that has more than just city council split.

"Tax benefits it because I think they're going to find the extra money to do some things with that the city needs," Harry Schmidt, who lives in Aiken, said.

But for every person who think it benefits the city, there are those like Teri Sullivan.

"I believe that there are necessary taxes, I do not believe this was a necessary tax," Sullivan said.

The tax has raised $780,860.87 since June, off a 1 percent tax you pay when you go to eat. That is almost $100,000 more than expected, but they have spent $67,579.84. City manager John Klimm says they want to be careful.

"The city council has directed us to be very conservative in terms of how we spend the money," Klimm said.

So far the money has gone to storm water management on Whiskey Road. Concerns about it impacting businesses are almost gone.

"Now the 1 percent, I'm going somewhere else to eat, nobody is going to do that," Schmidt said, over the initial worries of people going somewhere else to eat.

But the concern shifted to how the tax could jeopardize the Capital Project Sales Tax, which brought in more than $1.3 Million this past quarter.

"Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know, but clearly CPST4 (Capital Project Sales Tax) is more important than the Hospitality Tax," Councilman Dick Dewar said.

As for the Hospitality Tax, tonight's 4-3 vote means it will stick around. But people are still concerned about where that money will go.

"They have the money and they haven't said yet where it's going, but the money's there," Schmidt said.

Klimm says the priorities for the money are infrastructure, Whiskey Road improvements and fixing the downtown parking problem, which could include a parking garage. But some, like Sullivan, have yet to see any concrete plan.

"Show the voters exactly what it's going to go for and they have not done that," Sullivan said.