ST. GEORGE-- Dorchester County Council will consider asking voters if they want to approve a bond issue to raise $5 million for new parks and conserved lands.

Council votes on the proposed referendum for the first time tonight in St. George. If the question gets final approval from council at a later date, it would be placed on the ballot in November.

If voters OK a bond issue in the fall, the annual property taxes on a home valued at $150,000 would increase by $4.20. Council's decision would be the first in a series of moves to try to get projects under way amid lost revenues and budget cutbacks.

Council members also want to make progress on building projects, improve the Summerville Library, begin to develop the proposed Bacons Bridge park, and look for ways to help fund a Trident Technical College nursing center by spreading the payments over a few years.

If the parks referendum makes it onto the November ballot, the question will rest in the hands of residents already hostile to property tax reassessment and fee increases.

The Trust for Public Land recommended the $5 million bond figure to council in February, based on a survey of 400 residents last fall. Two-thirds said they would support paying that much to protect and improve land, to improve water quality, natural areas, wildlife habitat and parks, according to Will Abberger, trust director of conservation finance.

Council members said the ailing economy made them leery of asking property owners to take on the extra tax burden. But in a budget retreat in March, council decided to look at asking for the referendum, based on the apparent desire for the parks.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or