UNION COUNTY — Taxpayers in Union County and the three municipalities that levy a property tax will see a significant reduction in their property tax bills due to the penny sales tax generating more revenue than expected.
In November 2016, voters in Union County approved a referendum authorizing the levying of a one-cent sales and use tax beginning May 1, 2017.
The ordinance implementing the levy states that revenue generated by the tax will be collected in a Local Sales and Use Tax Fund for the county consisting of the Property Tax Credit Fund and the County/Municipal Revenue Fund. It further 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 used for county/municipal operations.
At the time of the referendum, the SC Department of Revenue estimated that the tax would 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.
In addition, the levying of the tax also meant that 25 percent of all revenues raised by it would come from outside the county. This is through a statewide fund which collects local option sale tax revenue from counties where it generates more than $5 million and distributes it to other counties.
On Friday, Union County Supervisor Frank Hart announced that the one-cent sales and use tax was generating more revenue that expected and therefore property owners would an even greater reduction on their property tax bills than originally estimated.
“The penny sales tax voted in place by Union County last year is performing better than expected,” Hart said. “Revenues received to date are higher than we originally estimated. This means that citizens will see a significant reduction in their property tax bills this year.”
Hart said that “the amount of the credit will depend on the appraised value of your property” and offered the following example of the credits property owners could receive:
• For a home valued at $100,000 the credit of .000878 would result in a reduction of $87.80.
• For a home valued at $50,000 the credit of .000878 would result in a reduction of $43.90.
Hart added that the credit “will also be applied to cars, boats, and other personal property items which are taxed based on their appraised value.”
In addition, Hart said that residents of the City of Union, the Town of Jonesville, and the Town of Carlisle “will also receive an additional credit off their city tax bill. Each municipality will declare the credit factor for their jurisdictions.”
Hart added that the credits “will be applied to real property tax bills mailed this year” and vehicle tax bills beginning Jan. 1 2018.
Road User Fee Repealed
The news that the penny sales tax is generating more revenue than projected is just the latest positive impact it has had for residents of Union County.
When it voted to put the penny sales tax to the voters in 2016, Union County Council committed to using part of the funds generated to support the Union County EMS, allowing council to eliminate the Road User Fee which was levied in 2014 when the county assumed responsibility for the EMS. In the wake of the approval of the penny sales tax, council voted earlier this year to repeal the Road User Fee which was eliminated at the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year on July 31.
2017-2018 Tax Levy
The tax levy for fiscal 2017-2018 includes a slight increase in the millage levied for county operations and an even smaller increase for USC Union.
During a special meeting Thursday evening, council voted unanimously to set the 2017-2018 total county tax levy at a total of 149.0 mils, an increase of 2.9 mils over the 2016-2017 total tax levy of 146.1 mils. The increase in the total tax levy was due to a 1.4 mil increase for county operations and a .2 mil increase for USC Union. The total county tax levy includes:
• Ordinary County (operations) — 112.4 mils (up from 111.0 mils)
• Veterans Park — .5 mils (unchanged)
• County Bonds: 2011 Bond Issue — 6.2 mils (unchanged)
• Economic Development Fund — 3.2 mils (unchanged)
• Library — 4.0 (unchanged)
• Higher Education — 2.6 mils — (up from 2.4 mils)
• Emergency Medical Services — 15.0 mils (unchanged)
• Quick Jobs Development Center — 3.0 mils (unchanged)
• Sports Complex — 2.1 mils — (down from 3.0 mils)
The resolution also sets the tax millage for following fire districts:
• Bonham Fire District — 13.0 mils (unchanged)
• Buffalo Fire District — 15.0 mils (unchanged)
• Carlisle Fire District — 11.4 mils (unchanged)
• Carlisle Fire District Bond — 11.2 mils (up from 6.4 mils)
• Cross Keys Fire District — 11.7 mils (unchanged)
• Philippi Fire District — 11.7 mils (up from 11.6 mils)
• Kelly-Kelton Fire District — 22.0 mils (up from 21.7 mils)
In other business, council voted unanimously to approve second reading of an ordinance setting up funding for the Union County Facilities Corporation. The ordinance authorizes the “execution and delivery of a project grant agreement” by and between the county and the corporation in the form of a “project grant agreement.” The agreement will permit the appropriation of county funds necessary to make “certain payments” required under the agreement.
The Union County Facilities Corporation is a non-profit corporation designed to enhance the economic development of Union County by providing the county with the ability to enter into public-private partnerships with private businesses and industries in order to do so.
Council voted in January to approve a resolution committing the county to establishing the corporation. At that time, Supervisor Frank Hart said such non-profit corporations are used by many counties and cities because it provides them with a mechanism for public-private partnerships for economic development. Hart said that economic development efforts in a community often require public entities like the county to partner with private entities such as a business or industry to facilitate the process. He said this is difficult for counties to do given state law and how county government is set up, but non-profits like the UCFC make it easier for public entities like the county to enter into such necessary partnerships.
The corporation was formally incorporated on Sept. 7 during a meeting at the Union County Development Board attended by Hart, Union County Council Vice Chairman Ben Ivey, and Union County Development Board Executive Director Kathy Jo Lancaster. Under the bylaws of the corporation the Union County Supervisor serves as president, the Vice Chairman of Union County Council serves as vice president, and the Executive Director of the Union County Development Board serves as secretary/treasurer. Accordingly, Hart was appointed president, Ivey vice president, and Lancaster secretary/treasurer during the incorporation meeting.
In addition to the appointment of the corporation’s officers, the meeting saw the passage of a series of resolutions related to incorporation including approval of its bylaws; adoption of its fiscal year (July 1-June 30); the opening of a bank account on the corporation’s behalf; authorizing the obtaining of insurance; authorizing the corporation’s officers to undertake action to obtain tax exempt status; and authorizing the corporation to enter into a lease agreement with a private company for the development of an industrial building in Midway Green.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.