Cheraw's town officials must be stuck in this lucrative daydream and ignoring the fact that this money has to come from someone's pocket. That someone is namely residents of Cheraw and surrounding areas. And they made it clear they don't want to foot the bill for a 2 percent hospitality tax.
Town officials like to phrase the tax on prepared food and beverages sold within town limits mildly by calling it "an alternate source of funding." But let's not call a short person vertically challenged or a manhole a person cover. This is another tax on top of another tax (1 percent local option sales tax) on top of another tax (1 percent school building fund tax) on top of another tax (5 percent sale tax). Instead of asking the public, "What is another 10 cents on a $5 meal," supporters of the tax should be asking, "How about paying nearly one-tenth more on what used to be a meal that goes up in price every year thanks to added costs?"
Town Council and the mayor can pass this tax despite what the people say (South Carolina law, State Code 6-1-700, allows cities and counties to impose, by ordinance, a local hospitality tax, on all prepared food items and beverages.) So you can't blame the multitudes of people who oppose the tax for feeling like their efforts to voice an opinion are futile.
As this issue heats up, Town Council and the mayor need to remember they represent the people of this community and their will. Before they make a decision to pass this tax, they need to remember people like Ester C. Gaddy slowly rising to her feet and supporting herself on a cane and the bench seat in front of her to address the town's leaders about how this tax will be a burden to her and many other senior citizens living on fixed incomes. She spoke for a whole generation when she said, "If we can't afford it, don't buy it."
For her and many others, this town doesn't need another festival, another brochure, another facade, if it's going to financially strain friends and neighbors.
When a doctor, not a minimum wage mill worker, says, "These are hard times," the town needs to hear the woes of its citizens, people tired of yearly property tax hikes and increased garbage and water/sewer fees, people tired of paying "just a percentage more."
Look around. Cheraw is a charming town. It has a successful spring festival that grows bigger every year. Recently, a museum opened downtown, and an actors' group is working to revive the theater arts program. Cheraw is a recognized Tree City, a retirement hotspot and a prime golfing location. Sure, more advertising would help perpetuate the town's attractiveness, but Cheraw is not about to fall off the map.
If the town starts to struggle, its people will come to its aid. If a building needs to be restored, it will be restored. (St. David's Episcopal Church was able to replace its roof with $115,000 in pledges and donations.) If a fence needs to be built, it will be built. (The wrought iron and brick fence around Old St. David's Cemetery is being erected at a cost of $60,000, thanks to generous donations. The town has contributed $3,000 this year and may contribute $3,000 next year.) If a recreational ball team needs equipment, it will be bought. (Local businesses already sponsor athletic teams for the recreation department, assisting in the cost for uniforms, travel and food after the games.)
People of this community have spoken about the hospitality tax. They don't want it; they don't see the need for it. Will council be for or against the voice of its people?