Penny Tax Committee Holds First Meeting

RICHLAND – Richland County’s newly appointed 15-member Penny Tax oversight committee held its first meeting April 24 in a conference room in the County building at Hampton and Harden streets. The meeting was facilitated by County Council Chairman Kelvin Washington and Councilman Paul Livingston who, among other things, heard committee members’ concerns about County Council’s recent announcement that it plans to seat two Council members as non-voting members of the committee.

According to The State newspaper, prior to the November 2012 vote on the tax, Council had promised voters that no members of County Council would sit on the committee. Voters were told that the committee would be a watchdog committee of citizens. Some members of the committee question whether it can remain apolitical and independent of County Council if Council members sit on it.

Blythewood’s representative on the committee, Bill Wiseman, said the meeting was primarily a get-acquainted meeting with a Power Point review of the background of the Penny Tax initiatives going back to 2008. He said members were given a list of the projects designated for Penny Tax funds. That list and other information can be found on the County’s website, Richlandonline.com.

“Right now we’re organizing,” Wiseman said. “Council is interviewing for a Transportation Director, and as soon as they put that person in place, they’ll hire a Program Management Firm to oversee the tax funded projects.” He said that process should be completed in about 60 to 90 days.

Wiseman said the committee will meet again either May 13 or 24 to elect officers and discuss their next steps. The committee’s task is to provide oversight to County Council as it carries out a $1.07 billion improvement program over 20 years to fund roads, bus routes, trails and bike paths in the county. Wiseman, who is serving a four-year term on the committee, will report back to Town Council and the community on the committee’s work.

The committee’s meetings are open to the public.