Voters will decide in November whether to pay higher property tax bills in order to build new libraries and renovate others.

If approved, Charleston County would borrow $108 million for the improvements. Taxes would increase to pay off the debt and operate the new facilities.

Overall, the proposed hike would add $18 to the tax bill for a $100,000 owner-occupied house.

On Thursday night, Charleston County Council Finance Committee approved putting the issue on the general election ballot.

The vote was 8-1, with Councilman Joe Qualey opposed.

"The magnitude of the numbers, it's just mind-boggling," he said.

New buildings would be constructed for

Cooper River Memorial, James Island and St. Paul's/Hollywood branch libraries. Two new branches would be built for the East Cooper/Carolina Park and Bees Ferry Road/Highway 61 areas. The remaining 13 branches would be renovated.

Qualey, a James Island resident, said he was concerned that he was being asked to vote on the proposal without knowing for sure where the new island library building would be located.

The county has been talking with the Charleston County School District about securing a place for the new building. If that happens, the current library branch near the intersection of Camp and Dills Bluff roads would be donated to the Town of James Island, officials said.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to offer more services on James Island. Even though we don't have a designated space I'm sure we will find one," said County Council member Anna Johnson, whose district includes the island.

County and library staff members currently are talking with community representatives, including those from the schools and local municipalities, to identify potential property to construct the new buildings. The hope is to find property that can be donated or where government services can be co-located so costs can be reduced, officials said.

Charleston County Library's Board of Trustees, based on input from area residents, developed the plan to renovate and construct libraries. It is a result of two years of study that included community input, a detailed survey of the library's existing branches, research into library service and technology trends plus a review of population and demographic changes since the last library referendum in 1986.

If approved by voters, the county would issue general obligation bonds up to nearly $109 million for the new construction, renovations and other upgrades.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.