Charleston County finance panel backs $12.5 million for International African American Museum

The International African American Museum likely will get a $12.5 million shot in the arm after a key Charleston County Council committee approved the contribution.

The group’s Finance Committee Thursday voted unanimously to contribute the money.

The full council will take a final vote on the matter Tuesday.

The 42,300-square-foot building is scheduled to go on land across from the S.C. Aquarium that’s adjacent to the parking garage that supports the various tourist sites on the Cooper River. But the building funds are still far from being in hand.

The proposed cost breakdown is: $12.5 million coming from Charleston City Council; $12.5 million coming from Charleston County; $25 million from the S.C. General Assembly, and the remaining $25 million to be raised from private donations.

So far, the city is committed to contributing its share and the county is leaning in that direction.

The county’s portion would come from accommodations tax revenue, a 2 percent tax on hotel rooms, said Keith Bustraan, the county’s deputy administrator of finance.

Under the plan, the city would borrow the county’s portion of the money, and the county would repay the city, Bustraan said.

The money also will cover the cost of debt service.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, one of the project’s leading proponents, said the museum is important because 40 percent of all enslaved Africans that came to this country came through Charleston. “There’s a huge thirst for this history that we weren’t taught and don’t understand.”

Reach Diane at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.

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