HICKS COLUMN: Have I got a deal for you, taxpayers!
I want Charleston County taxpayers to buy me a 2014 Corvette.
This is a great deal for you. Really. Just hear me out.
See, I can't afford to spend $60,000-plus on a Chevy. But the benefits to the county are so great, everyone should just chip in — and not ask too many pesky questions.
All the county has to do is sign for the loan, and then use the revenue this car brings into the community to repay it.
And, trust me, the economic benefits are great: I'd pay property taxes on the car — probably in the neighborhood of $1,000 a year — that the county would not get otherwise. I would help create jobs at the insurance company, the car wash and all those gas stations I'd have to visit daily to feed my Detroit muscle fix.
Now, this might sound a tad stupid — if it weren't almost exactly what the Beach Co. is asking the county to do.
The crazy thing is, the county may go for it.
The Beach Co. is asking for an $84.5 million tax increment financing district so it can build a bunch of McMansions on Johns Island.
That money would be used to build roads for the property, a sewer system — all life's little amenities. The money would be paid back by future tax revenues generated by the developed property. But that means that tax money wouldn't be a windfall for the county, or the schools, until sometime after 2050. And the costs of services to those homes? Well, the county would have to eat that for four decades.
TIF districts are meant to give folks incentive to rehabilitate blighted urban areas. But the state Legislature, in its infinite duplicity, decided you could have a TIF district for just about anything.
So why would a developer bother taking a risk on a development when he can get taxpayers to cover the nut? Well, he wouldn't.
“This would just be the tip of the iceberg,” said County Councilman Dickie Schweers. “If one of the — if not the — most successful developers in the county gets assistance, well then who doesn't? And I'm not sure where the taxpayers are making out like bandits.”
The Beach Co. — which, make no mistake, is laughing at us suckers — says this would pay for itself with all the jobs and tourism dollars it would attract.
Who knew welfare could be so profitable?
So much for capitalism
The County Council appeared ready to vote on this thing next week. Trouble is, there's no guarantee the votes are there.
“I'm very concerned about it,” says Councilman Herb Sass. “It's going to take some serious convincing. I'm not sure this is a role the county needs to play.”
By that, he means picking winners and losers in the marketplace: something conservatives say they don't like. But that's what this is, a complete subversion of capitalism.
It's like a rich NFL team making a city build its stadium. But at least then you might get to go to a game. Most of us wouldn't be welcome in Kiawah River Plantation.
Unless we drive up in a 2014 Corvette.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.