Thursday, March 14, 2019

Getting Cities a Starting Point

Students of arithmetic know what happens when any number is multiplied by zero: the product is still zero. 

That fact, combined with South Carolina’s Act 388 of 2006, creates a serious problem for the state’s 60 cities and towns in the state that have not imposed a tax millage — one that a new legislative push aims to solve. 

Act 388, among other changes, laid out a formula by which local governments could increase taxes in a new fiscal year: take the existing tax millage and multiply it by an amount equaling the Consumer Price Index plus growth. 

For the 60 municipalities in question, the existing millage is zero, leaving them with zero opportunity for increasing millage from year to year. When a city finds that its existing revenue can no longer meet the needs its residents and businesses have for critical governmental services, the city has no way to begin funding those services. For any newly incorporated city, Act 388 creates the same lack of options — that city cannot levy a millage. 

Advocacy in the General Assembly tends to unfold with steady efforts over time, and this has been the case with the zero millage bill. Last year, the Town of Edgefield pushed for a change, and Sen. Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) introduced a bill. 

This year, the Town of Pelzer, which previously annexed properties that drastically increased its population and is seeking police services to go with its new population base, took its needs to Sen. Mike Gambrell (R-Anderson). Gambrell introduced a zero millage bill, S227, while Massey introduced a similar bill, S113. There are House bill versions as well: H3168 and H3457. Among others who have advocated on this issue, the entire Pelzer Town Council came to Columbia to show their support. S227 moved through the Senate and is now in the House Ways and Means committee. 
S227, the full text of which can be found here, would allow municipalities to create an operating millage equal to one-third of its general fund expenses from the previous fiscal year. 

In cases where the municipality had previously had a millage but repealed it, the bill would allow the municipality to re-establish the millage, plus the increases it could have included since 2007 or since it repealed the millage, whichever is more recent. 

Learn more about this bill by contacting Scott Slatton at or 803.933.1203, and keep up with legislative action by subscribing to the Municipal Association’s weekly report, From the Dome to Your Home.