Thursday, February 2, 2023

2023 Hometown Legislative Action Day Coming Next Week

The Municipal Association’s 2023 Hometown Legislative Action Day will take place on February 7, at the Marriott Columbia, bringing a focus to the issues that matter to cities and towns across South Carolina, and strengthening relationships between state legislators and municipal governments. 

Conference sessions during HLAD will help city and town leaders know what to expect out of the 2023 legislative session, learn more about the Association’s 2023 – 2024 Advocacy Initiatives, and gain a better understanding about the new state law governing law enforcement policies and procedures. 

Also on the agenda for Hometown Legislative Action Day is the “Council of Errors,” which will look at common errors that sometimes confront elected officials. The session will cover everything from personal attacks among councilmembers to arguments with the news media and improper voting procedures. The audience will be invited to spot as many errors as they can throughout this mock council meeting.

Download the app 
The Municipal Association app isn’t just for events, but it does offer plenty of HLAD information. Through the app, users can view the meeting agenda and decide on which of the concurrent sessions they want to attend. The app also gives users information on speakers, attendees and sponsors.

Download the app from Google Play and the App Store.

The parking garage behind the Marriott, with entrances on Hampton and Sumter streets, will have limited availability. Meeting attendees and hotel guests may not park above level 4-A in this garage or the vehicle will be towed. Additional parking will be available at the parking garage located at 1200 Taylor St., one block from the hotel. City parking fees will apply. 

Shuttle service 
The Marriott will provide a shuttle between the hotel and the Cannon Garage on Taylor Street. For HLAD on February 7, the shuttle runs 8 to 10:30 a.m. and 4 to 7:30 p.m. For the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government on February 8, the shuttle runs 8 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Stay in the know 
Beyond HLAD, there are some other steps city and town officials can also take to keep up with what’s happening at the State House, including by subscribing to From the Dome to Your Home, the Association’s weekly legislative report delivered by email every Friday during the session. There’s also a From the Dome to Your Home podcast taking a deeper dive into legislative action as it happens.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Stay in the Know During the Legislative Session

The Municipal Association’s Hometown Legislative Action Day will take place Tuesday, February 7, in Columbia, giving municipal officials a time to learn about critical current issues ranging from short-term rentals to law enforcement policies, among others. Details on the meeting are available on the Association’s website and mobile app

The meeting is far from the only way for city and town officials to keep up with what’s happening at the State House. Here are numerous channels of information that officials can follow along with as the legislative session progresses: 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Local Business License Renewal Center Setup Happens in January

The 2020 SC Business License Tax Standardization Act requires that local governments that levy a business license tax must offer a statewide online business license renewal portal. The Local Business License Renewal Center fulfills this requirement and gives businesses operating in multiple parts of the state an easy way to renew all of their licenses at once.

Because all business licenses now have a standard due date of April 30, January is the time for all cities and towns to ensure they are prepared to accept payments from the Renewal Center. Here are several key things for municipalities to know going into the setup period that ends January 25, 2023: 

Tasks for the business licensing main contact 

Every taxing jurisdiction has one staff member designated as the main contact for the Renewal Center. Those contacts need to make certain that their city or town has everything set up correctly in the Renewal Center. 

They must ensure that all of the current city or town business license data is imported into the Renewal Center. They need to make sure their city or town has set up an account with Stripe, the Renewal Center’s payment processor. They need to ensure the most current version of the jurisdiction’s business license is uploaded — the Municipal Association recommends adoption of the model business license ordinance — and make sure that the business license rate structures, penalty structures and excluded North American Industry Classification System codes, or NAICS codes, are edited and up to date. They should also make sure that the logo and authorized signature of the city or town are up to date, since these will appear on issued business licenses. 

Renewal notice letter mailouts 

The Renewal Center opens to businesses for their payments on February 1. Because of this, the Municipal Association recommends that cities and towns mail out their annual business license renewal notices in January. 

Notices need to include the business’ NAICS code number and business license account number. Also, because the Renewal Center identifies businesses by either a Federal Employee Identification Number or the business owner’s Social Security number, those cities and towns that are not already requesting this information should ask for it in the renewal notice so that businesses may use the Renewal Center. 

Revenue Analyst Fran Adcock is the Municipal Association’s staff contact for the Renewal Center. For those needing assistance with setup or renewal notices, contact her at or 803.933.1201. 

“Business Licensing Essentials” moves to second Tuesdays 

In 2022, the Association’s Local Revenue Services began hosting “Business Licensing Essentials,” a series of virtual training sessions on the many critical topics involved in the business licensing process. Last year, those monthly sessions took place on the second Wednesday at 10 a.m., but in 2023, the sessions will move to the second Tuesday. The sessions require no registration. When they begin, a login link can be found on the Association’s training calendar. Attending these sessions allows participants to gain points toward their Master in Business Licensing, or MBL reaccreditation.

More resources 

  • The Association’s website has a page that gathers together information about the Local Business License Renewal Center. 
  • The Renewal Center link for businesses to use is
  • The Renewal Center link for taxing jurisdictions to use when maintaining their accounts is

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Start the New Year With Professional Development Opportunities

Education and professional development — both for elected officials and staff — are key functions of the Municipal Association of SC. For that reason, the Association has affiliate organizations to help local officials serve their cities and towns to the best of their abilities.

These affiliate groups connect peers in various fields of local government to network, learn through specially developed training and share best practices and experiences. The affiliate associations have online listserve systems that make sharing information and best practices around the state easier and faster. 

Each affiliate has a board of directors elected by its membership, and the Municipal Association provides management support to the boards. 

Two of the affiliates, the SC Municipal Finance Officers, Clerks and Treasurers Association and the SC Business Licensing Officials Association, host a Joint Academy each year to address topics relevant to both groups. 

The SC Association of Stormwater Managers hosts quarterly training sessions each year. The Third Quarter Training includes an Exhibitor Showcase highlighting manufacturers and consulting firms. 

Find all the affiliates' membership applications for 2023 below. The nominal membership costs provide each participant with discounted training registrations and access to that group’s closed listserve. 

The affiliate organizations are these: 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Municipal Association of SC and Main Street SC Launch On-demand Economic Development Training

Federal, state and local tax credits can turn historic buildings in need of renovation into a brand-new economic engine, but when these financial tools are overlooked by landlords, businesses and the development community, communities can struggle to reactivate commerce in their historic commercial districts. For that reason, the Municipal Association of SC and Main Street South Carolina have released Economic Development Incentives: A Collaborative Process, a video explaining the many facets of the historic tax credit process.

Photo: Savage Craft Ale Works 
The on-demand, 25-minute video helps showcase the opportunities of national, state and local incentives to encourage the reuse of historic downtown properties. It highlights a catalytic preservation case study: the development of the Savage Craft Ale Works in West Columbia. The facility uses the historic fire department and city hall, built in 1925, of Brookland, the former name of West Columbia, as well as the adjoining historic city jail. 

Through the video, viewers can hear how this project worked from City of West Columbia officials; staff from Rogers Lewis Jackson Mann & Quinn, the law firm involved in the project; as well as staff from Hood Construction and Tax Credit Marketplace. They explain how developers can stack together tax incentives to make historic redevelopment projects financially feasible, how to handle the necessary research and even the passion that developers need for bringing specific historic properties back to life. 

The video shows the possibilities of South Carolina’s surviving historic buildings, and the innovative ways that downtown communities can maintain their character while also welcoming the highest and best use of their buildings. 

The new video joins the Municipal Association’s Economic Incentives Toolkit, which explains a variety of tax credits and gives examples of each in action. It covers 
  • the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, 
  • SC historic tax credit, 
  • federal new markets tax credit, 
  • SC state abandoned building credit, and 
  • the Bailey Bill property tax incentive, which local governments can make available by ordinance.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

12 Cities and Towns Receive 2022 Hometown Economic Development Grants

The Municipal Association of South Carolina has awarded Hometown Economic Development Grants to 12 cities and towns. 

Available in amounts of up to $25,000 each, the grants fund economic development projects that will have positive effects on a municipality’s quality of life, can be maintained over time and illustrate innovative practices that can be replicated in other cities. The grants have matching requirements of either funds or in-kind contributions ranging from 5% to 15% depending on the size of the municipality. 

Many projects supported by HEDG funding have become important parts of their home communities. Walterboro, one of the very first HEDG recipients, put the funds toward the creation of the Walterboro Wildlife Center, which is now an important part of the city’s park offerings, as seen in this Municipal Association Achievement Award video

Here are the recipients in the 2022 cycle: 
  • City of Bennettsville: Downtown Business Façade Program – Bennettsville will use grant funds to continue its downtown redevelopment by partnering with local businesses to improve their facades. 
  • Town of Bethune: Main Street Park and Amphitheater – Bethune has partnered with Sandhill Telephone Cooperative to construct a park and amphitheater that will anchor a comprehensive main street revitalization effort
  • Town of Blacksburg: Lime Street Park Amphitheater – Building on its success from a previous HEDG award, Blacksburg will build an amphitheater as a town gathering space at its Lime Street Park
  • Town of Bowman: Inner Park Facilities Improvements – As part of a larger effort to make Bowman an agritourism destination, the town will use its funds for improvements and development of its Inner Park.
  • Town of Cheraw: Cheraw Theatre on the Green Renovations – Lacking accessible facilities at its historic Theatre on the Green, Cheraw will use grant funds to upgrade the theater’s facilities to ensure it remains a community space for all residents and visitors. 
  • City of Conway: Downtown Business Environmental Refuse Facility – Envisioned in its Riverfront and Downtown Master Plan, Conway will use grant funds to eliminate the clutter of refuse containers and capture stormwater downtown by constructing a multipurpose environmental refuse facility that will be made available to all of its downtown businesses. 
  • City of Landrum: Farmers Market Pavilion Expansion – Seeking to accommodate more community events and visitors, Landrum will use grant funds to improve a vacant property that will expand its farmers market pavilion. 
  • Town of Pendleton: Pendleton Oil Mill Redevelopment Plan – Through a public-private partnership, Pendleton will use town funds and grant funds to clean up and make plans for the redevelopment of a decades-long blighted industrial property at the entrance to its Village Green. 
  • Town of Ridgeway: Town Park Facilities Improvement Project – Ridgeway will use grant funds to develop adequate facilities at the town’s iconic School Arch and surrounding parks which draw visitors and residents year-round. 
  • Town of Summerton: Round & About Summerton Downtown Marketing Plan – In an effort to boost downtown businesses, Summerton will develop and execute the Round & About Summerton marketing plan that will seek to draw motorists and visitors off the interstate and into town. 
  • City of Tega Cay: City Center Marketing Plan – Tega Cay will use its funds to develop a marketing plan for it first-ever mixed-use development. The City Center District, which will create a “distinctive place of community,” is a key component of the city’s 2015 – 2025 comprehensive plan. 
  • Town of Ware Shoals: West End Business District Storefront Project – Partnering with the town, Ware Shoals’ west end businesses will get a boost from grant funds to improve their storefronts and eliminate blighted areas of the business district. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Action Needed on the Municipal Information Dashboard by November 21

Each fall, the Municipal Association of SC asks every city and town to review, update and verify its listed information using the Municipal Information Dashboard, which feeds information to the Association’s Municipal Directory. This year, the deadline for doing so is Monday, November 21. 

Cities and towns can also update their information with the Association throughout the year. Updating frequently helps the Association effectively engage with municipalities on key issues affecting their operations and residents. With accurate and up-to-date contact information, the Association can provide local municipal staff with 
The Municipal Officials and Legislative Directory is available online as well as in limited printed quantities. It features contact information for all 271 municipalities. It also lists the specific form of government for each city and town, the regular schedule of council meetings and the names of all elected officials and key staff positions. It also includes a listing of all legislators with the municipalities they represent. In the online version, users can search for legislators by municipality and find links to the legislator’s pages on the South Carolina State House website. The online version of the directory allows users to search for municipalities based on characteristics like the county in which the municipality is located or its population. 

In order to ensure the accuracy of all submitted information, the Association allows only one person from each municipality to handle the annual update — the municipal clerk or the clerk’s designee. The Association’s website has instructions for how to manage the updates, as well as explanations for frequently asked questions, like how to handle newly elected officials who have not yet been sworn into office. 

For assistance, or to make a new designation for the person responsible for the update, contact Joanna Ayers at or 803.933.1259.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Municipal Association Releases Updated Annexation Handbook

Annexation of properties into municipal limits is among the most frequently-discussed policy subjects in municipal government. City and town officials often have questions about the eligibility of given properties for annexation into their municipality, how to pursue and properly execute a property annexation, and even whether a proposed annexation is financially feasible. The Municipal Association of SC recently overhauled and updated its guidance document on this critical subject — the Annexation Handbook

The handbook covers the three methods of annexation available to municipalities in South Carolina: the 100% petition and ordinance method, the 75% petition and ordinance method and the 25% petition and election method. It provides checklists, includes sample petitions, and explains the other documents to be assembled when enacting an annexation.

Beyond the processes of annexation, the guide takes a look at many other key issues, including these: 
  • Defining and determining “contiguity.” Properties can be annexed only when they are contiguous to municipal limits. The SC Attorney General has determined contiguity means that a property is “adjacent to a municipality and shares a continuous border [with the municipality].” The handbook provides explanations of the nuance involved in cases where roads, railroads or waterways intervene between a property inside the municipal boundaries and one outside. 
  • Policy considerations. For every annexation, city and town councils should ask whether the annexation is in the best interest of the municipality’s current residents. Sometimes, the increased revenue of an annexation does not offset the financial burden of furnishing municipal services to the new area. Other issues include the zoning or rezoning of parcels as they are annexed, the legal issues involved in requiring annexation agreements as a condition for providing services outside the city, as well as creating tax relief or other incentives for annexation. 
  • Rules for annexing certain property types. The laws governing annexation of property owned by the municipality, the county, state or federal government, school district property, corporate property, multicounty parks and others vary. There are also specific issues to consider when annexing cemeteries or church property. 
Other resources 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Include All the Required Elements for Comprehensive Plans

October is National Community Planning Month, and local officials can mark the occasion by asking whether their comprehensive plans are properly updated on a 10-year cycle and whether they cover all of the elements required by law. State law changed in 2020 to add “resiliency” to the list of required elements for a comprehensive plan. 

Municipalities in South Carolina do not have to implement a planning and zoning program to guide their community’s development. For those that do, state law creates a framework for doing so in the Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act, found in SC Code Title 6, Chapter 29

The law requires local governments with land use regulations to establish and operate a local planning commission. That commission must develop a comprehensive plan, specifically addressing the 10 planning elements required by law. The commission must also reevaluate the comprehensive plan every five years. Every 10 years, the commission must update the plan by passing a resolution and submitting it to the city or town council. Also every 10 years, the council must host a public hearing on the plan and adopt it by ordinance.

Municipalities can pursue the 10 comprehensive plan elements in a way that best meets their community’s needs. For each of the elements, the plan must include an inventory of the community’s existing conditions, a statement of the local government’s needs and goals, and implementation strategies that include timeframes. 

  1. Population element. This addresses the historic population trends, anticipated growth and demographic data. 
  2. Economic development element. This covers the workforce, where workers live and other aspects of the local economy. 
  3. Natural resources element. This addresses items like the area’s water bodies, parks and recreation areas, agricultural and forest land and wildlife habitats. 
  4. Cultural resources element. This describes things like historic sites, areas of the community with unique commercial, residential or natural assets, as well as religious and entertainment institutions.
  5. Community facilities element. This addresses necessary factors for development like water, sewer, solid waste, fire protection, as well as medical, governmental and educational facilities. The local government must adopt this element before adopting any subdivision or other land development regulations. 
  6. Housing element. This describes the locations, types, ages and conditions of existing housing, how much is owner-occupied or renter-occupied, and the costs and other factors affecting the development of affordable housing. 
  7. Land use element. This considers both current and future land uses, including residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural or undeveloped uses. This element is a prerequisite for adopting zoning ordinances.
  8. Transportation element. This should coordinate with the land use element to provide sufficient transportation options for existing and future land uses. 
  9. Priority investment element. This recommends projects for the anticipated federal, state and local funds available for infrastructure and facilities in the next decade. 
  10. Resiliency element. This considers the impacts of flooding, high water and natural hazards on individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, economic development, public infrastructure and facilities, and public health, safety and welfare. 

The final element listed in the law, resiliency, was a new addition in 2020. The City of Conway is an example of a city that has recently worked on its resiliency element ahead of its 2035 Comprehensive Plan. It hosted a public input meeting in September dedicated to considering the recurring issues and potential for sudden disasters such as flooding, power or communication outages, pandemics and even economic disasters. 

Planning guide 

The Comprehensive Planning Guide for Local Governments, a publication of the Municipal Association, explores the comprehensive planning process. It explains how planning commissions can develop and revise the 10 elements of the comprehensive plan, and how councils should adopt it. The handbook also explains the organizational structures and functions of planning commissions and boards of architectural review as well as the process of crafting a comprehensive plan.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Local Business License Renewal Center Streamlines the Business License Process

By Caitlin Cothran, Manager for Local Revenue Services, Municipal Association of SC 

The Municipal Association of South Carolina’s Local Revenue Services offered business license officials 10 opportunities this summer to attend in-person training sessions throughout the state to learn more about the Local Business License Renewal Center. The trainings prepared current users and new users to operate the online system. 

The sessions involved many hours explaining the system and helping staff, but our staff really enjoyed spending one-on-one time with business licensing staff all over the state. They brought us great questions and they have learned a tremendous amount about how to make the Renewal Center work smoothly since we first began testing the software years ago. 
Officials join the Renewal Center training for the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments at Hanahan City Hall on August 18.  

Never heard of the Renewal Center? 

In recent years, the Municipal Association developed a statewide online portal for business license renewals. Act 176, the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act, which passed in 2020, requires that this system to be hosted by the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. Municipalities and counties that levy a business license tax must offer the Renewal Center for businesses to use to pay their tax. For these jurisdictions, using this free software requires that they adopt a number of standard business license practices which are also required by Act 176

What do the Renewal Center requirements mean for staff?

While Act 176 requires municipalities and counties to use the Renewal Center, it does not require that businesses use it. They still have the option to renew by mail, phone or in person. 

If the business chooses to renew its business license using the online portal, the city, town or county must accept renewal applications through it. They cannot require the business to apply for a license another way if it chooses to renew its license through the Renewal Center. Any city, town or county that is not accepting renewals and payments through the online system is not following state law. 

What does the Renewal Center mean for city and town councils? 

Councilmembers should know that Act 176 standardized business license practices across the state. This makes it much easier for businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions to do business around the state, since now they have only one renewal deadline and one place to handle them. 

One of the standardization requirements of Act 176 is that local jurisdictions update the class schedules they use for business license tax calculations every two years. The Municipal Association creates this update, which then receives approval from the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, and must be passed by ordinance by each municipal or county council. To ensure compliance with Act 176, the Association recommends that councils pass its model business license ordinance, which includes the current class schedule as an appendix. 

What does the Renewal Center mean for businesses? 

The Local Business License Tax Renewal Center means that there is now one central location to renew and pay all local business license taxes, but it’s important to remember this is for renewals only — businesses cannot use it to establish new business licenses. When applying for new licenses, businesses need to go directly to the licensing jurisdictions. The Association created a message for cities and towns to use when explaining to businesses the key points of Act 176 and its effects

More resources