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Is Dorchester County fighting referendum process — or a tax hike?

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Summerville needs to change its motto — “Flower Town in the Pines” just doesn’t seem to fit these days.

A more relevant slogan might be “See you in court.”

Right now there are so many government-related lawsuits pending in Dorchester County that the American Bar Association should just go ahead and hold its next conference there. Most lawyers will eventually end up there anyway.

The latest salvo is a lawsuit filed by a “group” of residents — and by group, we mean former lawmaker Mike Rose (again) — to stop a Dorchester County referendum that asks voters if they want to float $43 million in bonds for library and park improvements.

The group — “Dorchester residents against everything,” or something like that — contends it’s illegal to mix parks and libraries in one ballot question. So it must be removed from the ballot.

Never mind that the ballots are already printed, that they have known about this since before that happened, or that Dorchester County Council got a legal opinion that such a move was kosher. These folks, however, have a state attorney general’s opinion. And we all know the AG’s opinion on predicting court outcomes of late.

This promises no shortage of confusion come Election Day. But let’s not bog down in academics. This is really all about taxes and how some people don’t want to pay any.

County Council, which voted 6-0 for this referendum in July, contends libraries and parks both fall under “quality of life” issues.

Fair point. It’s also fair to point out the possible nefarious reason behind this coupling is to increase the likelihood of passage since it attracts support from two different constituencies. The county Republican Party cried foul back at the time, probably for this very reason.

The ramifications of this lawsuit could be far-reaching. If parks and libraries are so different and this lawsuit is successful, what’s to stop someone from challenging Charleston County’s own transportation referendum?

It would be easy to argue that conservation easements are a completely different issue than road improvements. Yet Charleston County Council included both on its own referendum.

And they’ve done it before, successfully.

The issue here, other than thriftiness, is that some folks are upset that they can’t get one without the other (the other is that, these days, people in Summerville apparently would rather fight than ... you get the idea). Repaying the bond issue on this would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $48 a year in additional taxes. Taken separately, people could pick and choose and get a smaller tax hike. The parks constitute only $13 million of the $43 million referendum; the rest is for libraries.

Or it could be that some people just don’t want any tax increase. If that’s the case, they should look at the bright side: Now they can stop two things with one vote.

On Facebook, where the warring factions of Dorchester County do battle, there is the usual difference of opinion.

Some people, apparently park supporters, argue that libraries are obsolete — that the internet can provide information these days. Nice.

You do know some people read books, right? If more did, that would be a good thing.

But those people are right about one thing: Dorchester County libraries are just about obsolete. The George H. Seago Jr. branch on Trolley Road is too small, out of date and nowhere big enough to handle demand. A new facility is desperately needed. Believe it or not, a lot of people still depend on libraries. Need proof? Just try to find a parking spot at the Seago branch.

Dorchester County partisans can split hairs and keep arguing this technicality in court, and the opposition may prevail. Which means no quality-of-life improvements. And that would suit some people just fine — namely the people who don’t want to pay for government functions.

But they aren’t Donald Trump — they won’t get out of paying taxes. See, eventually the government is going to have to pay a boatload of legal fees to defend all these picayune lawsuits.

Bottom line, parks and libraries are both important. Some people are determined to learn this the hard way.

Because if this lunacy keeps up, Dorchester is gonna need a bigger pool of lawyers.

And, if they don’t have adequate libraries, where are they going to study for the bar?

Reach Brian Hicks at

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