Guest Editorial — Lower property taxes at heart of Dorchester referendum
By voting ‘yes’ on November 5th, Dorchester County voters will lower property taxes for home owners and business owners throughout the county and become a competitive force in attracting new business. Lower property taxes on homes and cars are at the heart of the referendum and job growth is its by-product. This is the classic “win-win” – as Dorchester County residents will save money on their property tax bill, while helping to encourage the expansion of future economic development in the county.
We have worked diligently to create a better environment for job creation as we believe that is what you elected us to do. Since joining Council (we were sworn in in 2009, 2011 and 2013), we’ve drastically cut taxes for business owners in School District 4, cut storm water fees by 30% and have not increased taxes for county operations. We’re committed to the same fiscal integrity and good budgeting procedures you elected us to have to help lower your tax burden, and we feel we’ve accomplished quite a bit. However, there is another tool out there that can help us do a better job, but we need your help to utilize it.
Every day Dorchester County homeowners cross the county line and shop (at Azalea Square for example) and by doing so, they gladly spend an extra penny to lower taxes on Berkeley, Charleston and Colleton county homes. Yet, when the same homeowner shops in Dorchester County, there is no property tax relief provided. A Summerville homeowner in Dorchester County pays 40 percent more in property taxes than a Summerville homeowner in the same priced house in Berkeley County. A ‘yes’ vote closes that gap.
Right now, homeowners and business owners are responsible for fully funding the property tax burden to operate government. When a passer-by drives down Interstate-95 or Highway 17-A and stops in Walterboro, one-percent of what’s spent is distributed to homeowners and business owners countywide in Colleton, but when they stop in St. George or Summerville – no tax relief. But, a ‘Yes’ vote changes that and gives property tax relief.
We believe job creation starts with looking at our economic competitors in the region and determining where we can improve. A business will look at a county’s property tax as part of their decision to locate. In that vein, we are not competitive – lower taxes across county lines, mostly due to other counties having Local Option, are preventing this growth opportunity. Berkeley, Charleston, and Colleton counties already have a higher retail sales tax than Dorchester County. Since Berkeley County passed Local Option 15 years ago, their retail sales has grown exponentially – look at the exit 199 interchange for that proof.
Dorchester County Council took a proactive step and passed a resolution saying 100 percent of our revenue generated through the passage of Local Option will go toward property tax relief. Local Option is the only mechanism the county has at its disposal under state law to try to lower property taxes while simultaneously protecting the quality of life and core services you demand of local government. And let’s be very clear – every town and the county will have to give property tax relief of at least 71 percent of what is collected every year this is in effect. That is state law and there is no way around that.
We were elected as fiscal conservative Republicans and we feel this is in line with that. In fact, this initiative is also supported by the S.C. Republican Party Platform. The party’s platform reads, “[t]he S.C. Republican Party Platform supports the movement to lower property taxes as it reads, “the [Republican] Party recognizes that high property and income taxes repel capital migration and therefore retard economic growth. We strongly support the successful efforts of our Republican Governors and legislators, which have repeatedly reduced property taxes.”
We encourage everyone to take the time to explore the facts and statistics to answer the determining factors before voting November 5th: 1) Does this make sense for my family and our spending habits and the home and cars we own to lower our property taxes? 2) Do I want a better economy in Dorchester County, one where have a better environment for entrepreneurship and job opportunities? From there, make your personal decision as to how you would like to vote November 5th.
Hearn, Bailey, Byars, Chinnis and Duncan are Republican members of Dorchester County Council.