By Stan Welch
Critical legislation to allow Pelzer to establish a tax base gained significant traction and momentum last week, when a bill sponsored and introduced by Senator Mike Gambrell was forward out of committee to the floor of the Senate for consideration and a vote by the full body.
Gambrell said his intentions were to enable Pelzer to levy taxes so it can provide more services to its residents, but he soon found out that more than sixty other municipalities across the state are in the same predicament. Act 388, a property tax reform measure passed several years ago, inadvertently caught the different municipalities in the fiscal pinch of only being able to increase existing taxes by three per cent annually.
Three per cent of nothing is nothing, a fiscal reality that caused serious issues for Pelzer among various other towns and cities. The problem became glaringly apparent to Pelzer following the annexation of several hundred households, in order to increase the tax base.
Gambrell had introduced a bill last year, but it did not make it out of committee. Senator Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee assured Gambrell that such an event would not repeat itself this year. A unanimous vote brought the bill to the floor, where it received approval by a 37-3 vote. It will require one more passage by voice vote, but it has been sent to the House to be read over the desk and assigned to a committee there for review.
The bill would allow the affected towns to establish a tax base of up to thirty per cent of their operating budget in the first year. After that, the terms of Act 388 will apply to them.
Representative Thayer, whose district also includes Pelzer, introduced a similar bill to the House, but based on the swift action on Gambrell’s bill, she will redirect her efforts to getting his bill passed by the House. Roger Kirby, a Democrat from District Sixty One ( Florence and Marion Counties), also introduced such a bill. “Once I learned that, I assured him I wasn’t trying to steal anyone’s thunder. As long as we get something done about this problem, I don’t care who gets the credit.”
Senator Gambrell praised the Pelzer town council, which travelled en masse to Columbia to show their support for the proposed law. Mayor Scott, who has been ill, did not accompany them, but Sen. Gambrell said that the council’s presence and involvement made a strong impression.
By Stan Welch