Sentinel Progress

Dear editor,

If a grocery store clerk accidentally scanned a product twice, costing you double, you would be right to politely complain. Have you ever wanted to pay double for your taxes? Well, you already do, and you should politely complain to your state legislators.

The S.C. Legislature requires county governments to provide certain services on behalf of the state. Mandated services include magistrates and circuit courts, voter registration and election management, libraries, storm water management, jails, victim services and public defenders.

There are many more and the mandated services are run according to state law.

To offset the cost of counties administering state mandated services, state law requires the state to provide an amount equal to 4.5 percent of its previous year’s general fund budget to be distributed to the counties and municipalities in S.C.

This is known as the Local Government Fund (LGF). Since 2009, our S.C. Legislature has passed a budget proviso each year to cut the amount set aside for the LGF, circumventing state law and costing Pickens County more than $11 million during that time.

Because of shortfalls in LGF payments, county taxes collected to pave county owned roads or build and maintain county owned sewers have been diverted to pay for state mandated services.

Taxpayers have paid both county and state taxes, but county taxes have been used for state services. County taxpayers have paid twice to receive the same government service once.

You have been paying double taxes.

In 2017, Pickens County spent a little over $1.8 million of county taxes to comply with state mandates. As county expenses increase that gap in the LGF will become more critical.

For example, when the new jail is completed, the county will be required to hire a significant number of additional employees to staff the jail to meet state law requirements. That will create a permanent annual increase in the county budget of about $1 million per year.

As the Pickens County Commerce Park reaches its capacity the county will have to create an additional site (a source of jobs) along with a new sewer line at a cost of millions. Past lineups of Pickens County Council have carefully watched our money and avoided tax increases. The current County Council should be pressured to also work within current taxation rates, but they may feel they have to raise taxes.

Taxpayers should politely discuss the LGF with their state legislators. The LGF has been a political can kicked down the road that never should have been neglected. Local property tax increases enacted to cover state expenses confuse people about who is really responsible for the tax increase. Resist any suggestion to lower the amount of the state’s obligated LGF payments because local governments will still have the same mandated costs to deal with.

Legislators are elected to state government to work out difficult problems, not put them aside.

Steve Haynie

Easley, SC