UNION COUNTY — Voters in Union County will have the opportunity to decide whether or not the county will levy a one percent local option sales and use tax.
During its July meeting this past Tuesday, Union County Council voted unanimously to approve third and final reading of an ordinance authorizing a referendum on the levying of the sales and use tax. The referendum will be held during the Nov. 8 general election. The ordinance states that the sales and use tax will be levied only if approved by a majority of the voters casting ballots in the referendum.
The ordinance states that the referendum will ask voters the following question:
Must a one percent (1%) sales and use tax be levied in Union County for the purpose of allowing a credit against a taxpayer’s county and municipal ad valorem tax liability and for the purpose of funding county and municipal operations in the Union County area?
If approved, the county would begin levying the tax on the first day of July 2017. The ordinance states that the revenue generated by the tax would be collected in a Local Sales and Use Tax Fund for the county. The fund will consist of the Property Tax Credit Fund and the County/Municipal Revenue Fund. It states that 71 percent of the funds collected will be allocated to the Property Tax Credit Fund and must be used for property tax relief for county taxpayers. The other 29 percent will be allocated to the County/Municipal Revenue Fund and may be use for county/municipal operations.
The SC Department of Revenue estimates that a local option sales and use tax in Union County will generate an estimated $1.2 million within the county. Of that, Union County would receive an estimated $570,840 for property tax relief and an estimated $156,600 for county operations. The county’s municipalities would would receive an estimated $281,160 for property tax relief and an estimated $191,400 for municipal operations.
Supervisor Frank Hart said that if the voters approve the referendum that in addition to the revenue collected locally, Union County will be able to receive revenue generated from other counties that have implemented a local option sales and use tax.
“One of the key benefits is this is key to us being able to replace the public safety fees and road user fees which were put in place to support EMS,” Hart said. “Most counties throughout the state have adopted a local option sales tax. It’s a great opportunity for Union County since we estimated that every 25 cents of revenue will come from outside Union County. Currently South Carolina law allows counties which collect more than $5 million in local option sale tax revenue to have part of that withheld and distributed to other counties. Union County would be receiving some of that revenue generated by those counties.”
Hart pointed out that it is estimated that Union County could receive between $300,000 and $500,000 in local option sales and use tax revenue from outside the county or an additional 25 cents for every 75 cents the county collects. In addition, Hart said some of the tax funds the county will be receiving will be paid by people from outside the county who travel here. He said the county has committed to using all the funds it would collect through the local option sales and use tax to property tax relief for county taxpayers in addition to eliminating the public safety and road user fees.
A property owner with a home with an assessed value of $100,000 currently has a tax liability of $862.80. If the local option sales and use tax were to pass, their property tax liability would be reduced by estimated $69.20 to $793.60.
In other business, council also voted unanimously to approve third and final reading of an ordinance “repealing, rescinding, and revoking all prior enactments of Union County Council” that require a “referendum, advisory or otherwise,” prior to council appointing the members of the governing body of a special tax or fire district.
When council approved first reading of the ordinance at its June 8 meeting,Hart explained that the advisory referendum statute has never been truly implemented and that even if a referendum were conducted in regards to the appointment of members of the governing board of a special tax or fire district, those appointments would still have to be made by council. Hart pointed out that persons who would run for seats on those boards in advisory referendums would still be required to adhere to all the rules and regulations that candidates for county council and other public offices do even though the election will not necessarily result in their appointment. He said this has presented an obstacle to recruiting individuals to run for and serve on the boards.
Council also voted unanimously Tuesday to approve second reading of an ordinance authorizing an intergovernmental agreement between Union County and the City of Union to allow County Animal Control officers to enforce the city’s Animal Control ordinance within its municipal boundaries.
Bonham Fire District
Council also set the time and date for a public hearing and special meeting on the Bonham Fire District ordinance.
The ordinance authorizes “the creation of a fire protection district to be known as ‘Bonham Fire District.’” It also authorizes the designation of the fire district’s boundaries; the levying of an ad valorem tax for the operation and maintenance of the district; the empowerment of county council to “issue general obligation bonds of county,” to be paid for with the ad valorem tax levied within the district for purpose of providing fire protection service within the district; the establishment of administration for the district; and the establishment of the existing Bonham Fire District.
When council approve first reading of the ordinance at its June 21 meeting Hart said the ordinance is designed to correct some inconsistencies in the ordinances establishing some of the county’s fire districts. He said the ordinance is similar to one dealing with the Buffalo Fire District.
The public hearing on the ordinance will be held in the Grand Jury Room of the Union County Courthouse on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 5:30 p.m. It will be followed by a special council meeting in which council will vote on the third and final reading of the ordinance.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.