UNION COUNTY — Two years after it was levied the Road User Fee is being repealed.
The Road User Fee was one of two fees levied by Union County in 2015 as a result of the county assuming responsibility for the Union County EMS which had previously been operated by the Union Hospital District. The county took over the EMS after the district filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and the rest of its constituent parts — Wallace Thomson Hospital (renamed Union Medical Center), Ellen Sagar Nursing Home (renamed Ellen Sagar Nursing Center) and Carolinas Health Associates — were taken over by the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.
The Road User Fee ordinance approved by Union County Council in 2015 levied a $15 fee on all automobiles. At the time of its passage, the fee was projected to generate $400,000 in revenue. The funds generated by the fee went to the county road department allowing the county to divert an equal amount of tax revenue from the department to the EMS.
The other fee passed at that time was the Public Safety Fee which levied an annual $25 fee on private homes and an annual $50 fee on commercial structures. The Public Safety Fee was also projected to generate $400,000 with those funds going directly to EMS.
In 2016, council approved the repeal of the Public Safety Fee with the revenue it generated being replaced with tax millage the county had accumulated through increases permitted it by the Consumer Price Index. The millage had been accumulated over the course of three years prior to the repeal of the fee.
The Road User Fee, however, remained on the books and on the annual tax bills of Union County residents and businesses and remains there to this day, but not for much longer.
During its May meeting Tuesday evening, council voted unanimously to approve first reading of an ordinance repealing the Road User Fee. Supervisor Frank Hart described Tuesday’s vote as a first step by council to keep a promise made to the people of Union County.
“The county committed to repealing the Road User Fee if the public gave a positive vote on the One-Cent Sales Tax,” Hart said Friday. “With its vote Tuesday council took the first step toward keeping that promise.”
In November 2016, voters in Union County voted to approve 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. The fund will consist of the Property Tax Credit Fund and the County/Municipal Revenue Fund.
The ordinance 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.
Hart said Friday that while the bulk of the funds the county receives from one-cent sales and use tax will go to property tax relief for county taxpayers, a portion of those funds will be used to support the EMS, replacing the Road User Fee funds which will be eliminated when the fee itself is eliminated as of July 31.
In other business, council voted unanimously to endorse the Union County Carnegie Library’s use of Historic Tax Credits to provide additional revenue for the renovation of the library.
Council also voted unanimously to approve second reading of the 2017-2018 budget.
Council also voted unanimously to approve second reading of an ordinance authorizing an equipment lease purchase agreement not to exceed $150,000 for the purchase of a water tanker for the Carlisle Fire Department.
Council also voted unanimously to award the bid for roof replacement at the Buffalo Senior Center to Roof Options Inc. for $21,548 with the funds for the project to come from the county’s capital improvements fund.
Council also voted unanimously to appoint Nancy Garner to the Kelly-Kelton Fire Board.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.