Chapin Nixes Hospitality Tax, Refuses Election Change
Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2016 at 9:20 pm.

After hearing opposition from residents and small business owners who said they would be negatively impacted, the Chapin Town Council Tuesday turned down a 2-cent tax on prepared food and drinks proposed by Mayor Skip Wilson.  The vote was 4 to 1 against, with Mayor Wilson casting the only yes vote.

If it had passed, the tax would have increased the sales tax on prepared foods and drinks sold within the town limits from 7 cents to 9 cents.

Mayor Wilson had maintained that tourists coming into the town would shoulder a large part of the additional tax burden, and that they would bring additional business into the town.  Jerry Caldwell, owner of The Coffee Shelf said that 85 to 90 percent of his business is derived from people living within the 29036 zipcode.  “I am not seeing the tourists who will support this tax.  My customers will bear the burden.”

Vicky Wingard Shealy said that out-of-towners heading to Lake Murray usually bring their supplies with them, and eat at one of numerous establishments around the lake.  She said she didn’t believe Dreher Island will bring in the 2 percent revenue.

Leisha Huffstetler questioned the $360,000 which Mayor Wilson had included in the 2017 General Fund Budget, which he expected the town would receive from an estimated $16,500,000 million in food and beverage income.  She said she had received actual figures for the Town of Chapin from the Department of Revenue’s annual report, indicating that the total annual sales of prepared food and drugs in Chapin amounted to $9,559,393, which would produce far less revenue from the 2 percent tax.

Cary Wells, of Zesto, “I know there are a lot of wonderful things that Chapin would like to do, but … I’d like to say I pay enough in taxes.”   And as a consumer who eats lunch here almost every day, I will pay the tax willingly if it is passed.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say, “It’s enough!’   He said that as a mom and pop business, he has trouble competing in price with larger corporations operating just outside of the town, and that adding another two cent tax would make competition even more difficult.

The Mayor also failed to garner council support for his proposal to change the date of Chapin’s municipal elections to coincide with general state and national elections.  He argued that changing the election date would save the town the cost of holding separate elections, and would encourage more people to vote in the town elections.  Council member Gregg White sided with the mayor on first reading of the ordinance.  Mayor Pro Tem Mike Clontz and council members Kay Hollis and Robbie Frick voted not to change the election date.    A change in the election date would have given the Mayor and Council Members White and Frick, whose terms are expiring in 2017, an additional year to serve.

The Council gave first reading approval to an amended General Operations Budget, after Mayor Wilson and Councilman White argued over whether a $26,836 item listed as current year budget reserve fund should be a restricted amount, which would require council approval of any expenditure.

With Wilson refusing to do so, White called for a vote, which passed 4-1 (with the Mayor voting in opposition.)  The budget total of $2,052,55, will have to be reduced by $360,000, since the hospitality tax was not approved.   The budget includes an enterprise/utilities operations budget totaling $3,201,150.

Council unanimously approved an ordinance adopting Lexington County Stormwater Ordinance 16-04.  The ordinance will be enforced by the Lexington County Department of Public Works in conjunction with the Town.

Council also heard a presentation from Hannah Jones Walters on Eat Smart Move More SC, a health initiative.