Thursday, May 23, 2013
Goose Creek City Council and the mayor decided to shelve a hospitality tax they said needs further development before proceeding.
The new tax was on the agenda at the regularly scheduled May 14 council meeting. Councilmember Mark Phillips made a motion so council could enter discussion. John McCants seconded the motion.
After much discussion and public comments, Mayor Michael Heitzler asked Phillips to withdraw the motion. He did and McCants withdrew his second.
The hospitality tax would affect prepared foods – anything from gas station roller hot dogs to rotisserie chicken at grocery stores and food sold in restaurants and bars, according to Heitzler.
“We recently established the Economic Study Committee,” Councilmember Franklin Moore said. “I think we need to study it a little bit more. Give it 30 days.”
Of 91 municipalities in the state, Goose Creek is one of 17 that does not have a hospitality tax, Councilmember Jerry Tekac said. He added the surrounding municipalities of Summerville, Moncks Corner and North Charleston all use a hospitality tax.
“I’m not sure in 30 days we will have the answer,” Mayor Pro-tem Kimo Esarey said. “If it’s counter-productive in bringing new restaurants we’ll look at other options.”
Esarey, Phillips and Moore are on the recently formed Economic Study Committee, which has three members of council plus Economic Development Advisory Committee members.
Councilmember Marguerite Brown said money from the tax would have to be spent on recreation and historical things. She added it could not be used to hire a police officer.
Chris Walker voiced opposition during the public hearing. Walker owns the Chick-fil-A franchises in Goose Creek and in Summerville, where there is a hospitality tax.
“If a check amount is $7.90, it’s going to be over $8,” Walker said. “It does have an impact on business.
“It’s two percent on top of eight percent. Goose Creek has the highest business license fee in the tri-county. You’re already taxing us steep.”
“Are we going to go the way of the federal government . . . raise taxes and spend money?” Joel Arenson asked.
“The city runs a tight, balanced budget,” Moore said, adding that money from the tax increment financing (TIF) ran out last year. “If we want anything, we have to move forward.”
“I see this as a positive new chapter,” Heitzler said. “Thirty years ago we tried to make Goose Creek less ugly . . . 15 years ago we added TIF to not raise taxes.
“Do we want to step up? Each time we made a bold step nobody has regretted it. We have land you already own. We don’t have money to develop.”
The tax would raise about $1 million a year for the city, Heitzler said. He reminded the audience the city was named the best place in the state to raise children.
Heitzler said he talked to the owner of his favorite restaurant in the city – which he would not name – who told him it would not make a difference.
“In the past 15 years we’ve been handcuffed to raise recreation funds,” Goose Creek Recreation Commission Chairman Jerry Glass said. He added that recreation facilities are overcrowded.
“We have a candy sale every year,” Glass said. “It’s not a big revenue generator. We’re having to hunt for places to practice. We’re having to beg and borrow.”
“We need to sit down and say exactly what we’re going to spend the money on,” Tekac said. “I think it needs more work.”
“So often we travel the highways of life and never stop and see the side roads,” McCants said. “Go by Old Moncks Corner Road between 6 and 11 (p.m.) and see how crowded the Casey Center is. We need to look beyond the tree line at places that are isolated from our eyesight.”
“I don’t like raising taxes,” Heitzler said. “I’m ultra-conservative. It’s not about me and what I want – I’m a real penny pincher and I don’t want to pay more taxes.
“This isn’t about Mike Heitzler. I’m a public servant here to listen to what the people of Goose Creek have to say. We’re not even ready to show you conceptual plans.”
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