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If it were up to northern Beaufort County voters, the county's sales tax would not increase to pay for road improvements, according to a precinct breakdown of Tuesday's election results.'
But southern Beaufort County voters overwhelmingly approved of increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent to pay for $152 million worth of road projects, the unofficial results show.'
The ballot question passed with 57 percent of the vote countywide. But in the precincts north of the Broad River, only 48 percent of voters approved. In southern Beaufort County, 64 percent of voters supported the increase.'
"A lot of people north of the Broad probably feel that, even though they're growing, they're not growing at the same pace as south of the Broad," said Norman Harberger, who headed up the campaign to get the tax increase passed. "And they're not quite as dependent on a very limited number of arteries.'
"So the sense of urgency of dealing with whatever levels of congestion that they're dealing with are less extreme than what we're experiencing south of the Broad."'
County Councilman Skeet Von Harten, who represents Burton, said he was surprised that so many northern Beaufort County voters opposed the referendum because both sides of the county will receive their fair share of road improvements. Seven major projects totaling $68 million are north of the Broad River.'
"I keep trying to tell everybody, 'It's one county -- doesn't matter if you live on this side of the river or the other -- we're all one county,' " Von Harten said.'
The tax increase goes into effect in May and will apply for six years or until $152 million is raised, whichever happens first. Ultimately, the sales tax charged in Beaufort County will be 7 percent because the statewide sales tax will increase in June due to a property-tax reform plan approved this year by the state General Assembly.'
Some Bluffton residents opposed the tax increase because $50 million'
would go toward extending Bluffton Parkway. They live near the extension and were upset the county didn't determine the road's exact path before Tuesday's vote.'
Bluffton Precinct 1C, at the Bluffton library, was the only Bluffton polling place where a majority of voters, 53.8 percent, rejected the ballot question. Hilton Head Island 5B, in Hilton Head Plantation, was the only island precinct at which a majority of voters, 50.4 percent, opposed it.