DCC overhauls tax authority

  • Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Dorchester County Sales Tax Authority will have a new structure and possibly some new faces as of Sept. 16.

Dorchester County Council approved third and final reading of an ordinance that reduces the number of serving members from nine to seven.

Then, after some animated discussion, council approved a motion to remove all present members and subsequently appoint/reappoint seven members to the newly restructured DCTA, effective Sept. 16.

The removal and appointment/reappointment will occur during council’s Sept. 15 meeting.

DCTA is the body created by council to administer sales tax revenues for road projects. Originally created in 2005, each member of council has one appointment to the authority, subject to the approval of a majority of council. There is no requirement that an appointee be a resident of the council district of the council member making the appointment.

In 2011, council added two “at large” members that are appointed by majority vote of council. However, that decision was not unanimous, noted Chairman Bill Hearn. While Hearn said he initially supported the addition of two more members, he subsequently developed concerns and ultimately decided that the additions were not in the best interest of the county.

“At the time of the decision, there was concern on the part of several council members that we should keep the format as is at seven members since that gave each member one appointee,” Hearn said last month. “Having been one of the members who asked to expand it to nine, and now as chairman of council, I want us to revisit this decision as I have had and continue to have misgivings about having expanded the DCTA to nine members because it sets a bad precedent going forward with our other standing boards and committees since virtually all of them have seven members appointed by each respective council member. Given that the original vote was split and given my concerns I wanted to tackle this now and not leave this issue to future council chairmen.”

While the ordinance to reduce the number of appointees back down to seven passed unanimously, the motion to remove and reappoint was a little more fractious.

Council passed the motion 5-2, with Hearn and Councilmembers George Bailey, Jay Byars, David Chinnis, and Carroll Duncan voting in favor and Councilmen Willie Davis and Larry Hargett voting against it.

Councilmembers cited a number of reasons and concerns – including the ongoing problems that have plagued the Dorchester Road project – regarding the actions they took. Chinnis made it clear he was not pleased with the present state of affairs, saying he felt members of the DCTA have lost sight of the fact that they are, in fact, responsible to council and ultimately to the taxpayers of Dorchester County and requested that councilmembers come to the Sept. 15 meeting with recommendations for appointment to the authority, to be voted up or down by majority vote.

However, Hargett questioned that, saying he saw nothing in the initial ordinance to reduce the number of appointees that requires council to take such an action. He also said he is satisfied with his present appointee to the authority and does not wish to risk that person’s being voted off the board by a simple majority.

Byars said he believed that reducing the number of appointees to the authority was a good first step and noted that not only do the other county boards and commissions have seven members, one appointment for each councilmember, but that most of those appointees serve set terms. DCTA members serve as long as their appointing councilmembers serve on council.

Byars said he also supports consideration of bringing fresh eyes to the authority.

Other business discussed:

• After some discussion, council voted 3-2-2 to allocate $11,000 to hire an administrative staff person with the magistrate’s court to handle expungements. According to county and magistrate court officials, this is essentially yet another unfunded mandate from the state; the legislature passed new requirements in June regarding expungements and the S.C. Supreme Court subsequently handed down an order to the counties to comply. All of these actions from the state occurred after the county had gone through the budget process. Furthermore, the counties were not informed of this until after the budget was passed.

Hearn, Bailey and Byars voted in favor, Hargett and Davis voted against it, and Duncan and Chinnis abstained.

• Council heard a presentation from Alison Simmons regarding a special assessment incentive program for rehabilitation of historic structures throughout the county. In addition, council authorized Simmons to develop recommendations and to draft an appropriate ordinance for council’s review.

• Council was officially introduced to the county’s new Human Resources Director, Leonitta Turner.

• Council went into executive session to receive legal advice on the following:

Confidential Economic Development Projects, Old Fort Land Purchase, Quit Claim Deed on Bear Branch Road, a Contractual Matter, and Pine Trace Sale to Mungo Homes.

Upon return to regular session, council voted unanimously to authorize the county administrator to execute the Second Amendment to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale between Dorchester County and Mungo Homes Coastal Division, LLC. The amendment extends the inspection period for 60 days so Mungo Homes can get the wetlands delineation approved by the Army Corps of Engineers and so the county can get approval from the town of Summerville on the Planned Unit Development amendment.

Council also voted to authorize the county administrator to execute quit claim deed to Charles Moorer for Bear Branch Road. This action, requested by the Moorer family, takes the road out of the county system.

Finally, council voted unanimously that Dorchester County refrain from borrowing funds from USDA Rural Development for the purchase of Station 4 on Orangeburg Road currently occupied by the Old Fort Fire Department.

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