Beaufort County voters overwhelmingly favored two ballot measures last week, voting to approve a one-cent transportation sales and use tax and a bond issue to fund the county’s Rural and Critical Lands program.
The transportation tax passed with nearly 58 percent of the vote, delivering up to $120 million for projects throughout the county, including $80 million for road and bridge improvements along the U.S. 278 corridor onto Hilton Head Island, $30 million for projects along the Lady’s Island corridor, and $10 million for multi-use pathways throughout the county designed to provide safer access to schools and residential neighborhoods.
“Passage of this measure was critically important to Lady’s Island, where $30 million will be spent on road improvements,” said Chuck Newton, chair of the Sea Island Corridor Coalition. “Our Coalition began pressing City and County officials for these improvements more two years ago, and they responded with a detailed traffic study and identification of nine key improvement projects on Lady’s Island. To have Beaufort County voters support this funding for these projects is exceptionally gratifying, and while work will be done over a several year period, we look forward to getting work underway.”
The additional penny sales tax increase is expected to be effective on January 1. All revenues from the increase must by law be applied only to road and bridge improvements identified on the ballot. The sales tax will be collected only for a period of four years or until $120 million has been collected, whichever comes first.
Beaufort County voters also approved a $25 million bond issue for the County’s Rural and Critical Lands program with nearly 70 percent support. The Rural and Critical Lands program is administered by the Beaufort County Open Land Trust.
In the only major upset of the night, Democrat Joe Cunningham pulled out a narrow victory over Republican Katie Arrington in the race for Rep. Mark Sanford’s Congressional seat, winning by fewer than 4,000 votes for a margin of less than 1.5 percent.
Republicans maintained power throughout state and local government, though, as Gov. Henry McMaster defeated challenger James Smith by eight points, and Secretary of State Mark Hammond, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, and Attorney General Alan Wilson all won by wide margins.
In local races, Beaufort County Probate Judge Kenneth Fulp easily won reelection, as did Beaufort County School Board members David Striebinger (District 2). Other incumbents did not fare as well in school board races, as William Smith ousted Cynthia Gregory-Smalls in District 3, Tricia Fidrych won a resounding victory over Joseph Dunkle in District 4, and Richard Geier narrowly defeated Stew Butler for the open District 5 seat. Stephen Murray won reelection to Beaufort City Council.