Chamber endorsement of one-cent sales tax supports Aiken's future

The Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce is focused on the community’s prosperity in the 21st century, and the organization remains keenly aware of the role education plays in the community’s future.

The Chamber’s endorsement of the one-cent sales tax, along with that of the Economic Development Partnership and the Aiken Board of Realtors and Multiple Listing Service, comes after months of study to determine what needed to be done to ensure a healthy and viable community of the future.

“It comes down to economic vitality and that means business, and it takes many spokes of a wheel turning in sync to attract new businesses, as well as to support existing businesses. Many folks believe that passing the one-cent sales tax for school construction on November 4 will be transformational for our county, ” said Aiken Chamber President J. David Jameson, pointing out that the recent Regional Economic Benchmarking Report for Aiken County validated the need for new school facilities even more.

The report demonstrates that many people who work in Aiken County choose to live in areas outside the county, including 1,500 to 5,000 high income families with children, due in large part to the poor quality and condition of our public school infrastructure.

“Most folks may not realize how old the schools are in our county,” said Dr. Deidre Martin, University of South Carolina Aiken, chair of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce.

• Three-fourths of the schools are more than 40 years old.
• One-half of the schools are more than 50 years old.
• Three schools are more than 65 years old.

“You cannot put the new technology in these schools, and the cost of maintaining them is much higher than if you had a new school. With aging facilities, we miss out on several fronts – not being able to make full use of the tools that technology provides, tools that can truly prepare our students for the world they will enter after school, and not making the best use of public funds due to the costs of maintaining these older facilities,” Dr. Martin said.

“I truly believe the one-cent sales tax is a great avenue, a fair avenue, to allow us to accelerate how we’re maintaining and building our schools I just believe those school buildings are critical to what we’re doing to attract families and businesses to our community,” she emphasized.

The one-cent sales tax will bring benefits to Aiken County residents:

• The sales tax provides a property tax roll back and will help the Aiken County School District more fully implement its five-year facilities plan by accelerating construction projects.
• It will shift 30% of the tax burden to non-residents who visit our community.
• The sales tax cannot be collected on groceries, gasoline, prescription drugs, and other items exempt from state and local sales tax.

Elevating the critical role of education as a tool to support Aiken’s economic vitality is one of the Chamber’s key initiatives for 2014 and beyond. The organization’s work in 2014 launches a multi-year process that creates viable, proactive mechanisms that drive a force for Aiken’s prosperity in the 21st century through economic vitality initiatives. The purpose is to:

• reawaken and re-engage the general public and business community about the needs necessary for business growth and job creation
• raise awareness of the fact that business climate is the #1 factor of a successful community
• begin a five-year evolving plan that leads to the community’s long-term prosperity

“One of our responsibilities as citizens of this community is to ensure it remains a special place in the future. I believe there comes a time when you have to step up and do what is right, and I believe with my whole heart that investing in the next generation by supporting the one-cent sales tax is absolutely what is right,” said Dr. Martin.

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