News Archive

(0506) Feb. 1, 2006

Town might not make payroll by March
Citizens call for resignation, mayor declines
Council to make recommendations at Thursday worksession
Three area projects receive SCDOT grant funding
Recall currently not an option
Convenience center nearing completion
Clarification
Deputies investigate scam, shooting and fight incidents
This Week in the House

Town might not make payroll by March

When added up, total liabilities for the town of Williamston amount to $1,613,000. Most of it, $1,138,753, is delinquent. On top of that, tax money and other revenues the town is supposed to operate on for 2006 has already been spent.

Approximately 250 people attended a community meeting Tuesday in which the financial condition of the Town of Williamston was presented and  residents vented their concerns. Many asked for the mayor to resign, citing a lack of confidence in his ability to run the town.

Looking at the facts, they may be right.

According to figures presented by accountant Bob Daniels, the Town had a negative $71,000 fund balance at the end of 2005 and possibly will not be able to make payroll in just three to four weeks.

“If you do not make changes the town will not be able to make payroll by March or late February,” Daniels said.

He said the town has more liabilities than assets and needs $1 million in the fund balance at this time of year. To deal with the situation, Daniel said that the town must implement “emergency procedures very quickly.”

According to the town’s audits, in 2003 the fund balance was $711,000 and by 2004, had dropped to $411,000.

For 2005, Daniel's figures show the town had revenues of $2,491,000 and expenditures of $2,973,000 resulting in a $482,000 deficit.

The deficit, the fifth in a row under Clardy, ate up the town’s $411,000 fund balance, resulting in the negative fund balance.

Daniel's figures show that at the end of the year, the town was delinquent $280,771 on federal withholdings and social security;  $56,018 on state withholding;  $116,869 on retirement;  and $85,153 on police fines.

There were penalties of $26,319 and an estimated penalties due of another $56,600.

Accounts payable stands at $117,586. Of that, $71,342 is delinquent.

Some payments were  made during January. $94,899 was paid on delinquent Federal withholdings and social security and $18,954 was paid on state withholdings. Retirement and police fines due to the state are still behind.

In the water and sewer fund, accounts payable stands at $225,965, of which $147,183 is delinquent.

Payments on the water and sewer bond were four payments behind, a total of  $102,064. Two payments were made in January.

On the sidewalk project which was just completed, bills not paid amount to $196,434. A $50,000 payment was made to the contractor in January, Daniel said.

At present, liabilities for the town amount to $1,263,779, of which $1,138,753 is delinquent. Added to that is the $350,000 BAN note which is due in one year.

In the water and sewer fund, the town owes $432,606, of which $353,824 is delinquent. Payments of $79,495 were made in January.

When added up, total liabilities for the town amount to $1,613,000. All but $475,000 of that is delinquent.

After presenting the figures, Daniel said that the town is in fudiciary danger when money is being withheld with the promise to pay another person. “This is very serious. It is subject to all kinds of penalties.”

Projections for the town were even more alarming.

According to Daniel, the town’s general fund had $281,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31, 2005. Projections show an increase in January to $334,000 then a decrease to -$107,000 by March followed by monthly decreases, that  if left unattended, will amount to $1,394,000 by December of this year.

Projections for the Town’s Water and Sewer department show expenses more than revenues from January on.

Daniel said the town had approximately $160,000 in the bank for the Water and Sewer Fund at the end of December. The balance will drop to $49,000 in January, and will be in the red by $36,000 by March and by $185,000 by December.

Daniel then said the town will have to reduce expenses and/or increase revenues by $1.1 million to $1.2 million “just to make payroll, much less pay back anything.”

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said he had asked Daniel's to present the figures “as realistic as possible.”

“I take any and all responsibility as mayor for failing you.” Clardy said to the crowd. “I should have been more aggressive in dealing with the revenues and expenses. I take full responsibility in my position as mayor.”

Each of the councilmen also said they take responsibility for the town’s finances.

“I know the town’s in bad financial condition and we’re to blame for it” Councilman Otis Scott said. “If the people will just bear with us we can bring the town back to financial stability.”

Councilman David Harvell said “We’re here to work together and taking blame for what we’ve done.” Harvell said his plans include a cut in services and personnel and do whatever it takes.

Councilman Cecil Cothran expressed his regrets for letting the town get to this point.

Councilman Greg Cole also expressed regrets and to the delight of the crowd, suggested cuts in the mayor’s and council’s salaries and health insurance. Cole said he also wants weekly meetings to approve all invoices. “Give us a chance, we can work it out,” he said. His comments drew loud applause from most of those in attendance.

Joe Newton of the Appalachian Council of Governments said the town is in “About as bad condition as you can possibly be. There is some hope that you can do what needs to be done.”

Newton reiterated that by following a recovery plan which he presented, the town can recover.  “At some point this will be a very bad memory,” he said.

Newton’s 10 proposals include:

Begin public information meetings.

Schedule weekly financial budget council workshops.

For the short term, electively and partially pay outstanding bills.

Contact vendors to notify them of the City’s intent to pay in full, when able.

Immediately discontinue non-essential services.

Immediately and dramatically cut operating expenses.

Enact a balanced budget within two to five weeks.

Raise fees including water, sewer, sanitation, franchise, business, license, etc.

In June or July, secure General Obligation GO Bond of $700,000 with a five-year term, incorporating the $350,000 Bond Anticipation Note (BAN).

In August 2006, set sufficient tax millage to pay debts and to provide essential city services.

Newton also said the millage “should have been higher over the years.”

Residents were then allowed to make public comments. (See separate story)

Following the meeting Councilman Cole and Scott said they have specific recommendations to reduce expenses which they will present at the next meeting.

Mayor Clardy said some cuts have already been made. At least three positions in “administration” have already been eliminated as of this week, Clardy said. He declined to say which positions they were.

The next meeting of Council will be a special work session this Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. at which Council will begin the process of making necessary adjustments.

Citizens call for resignation, mayor declines

By Stan Welch

Tensions and resentment over the Town of Williamston’s finances made for a heated town forum Tuesday night, as speaker after speaker called for Mayor Phillip Clardy to resign.

The crowd seemed convinced that Clardy should bear the brunt of the responsibility for the Town’s situation, which was described by the financial analyst currently working with the Town as “a severe financial crisis, bordering on collapse.”

Bob Daniel, who also helped the Town of Iva through a similar situation several years ago, pulled no punches, telling the audience, estimated at 250 people, that the Town might be unable to make its payroll as early as March, or even late February. Daniel also said that “Emergency measures are called for. The current fund balance for the town is minus $71,000. It should be in the neighborhood of $1 million.”

He went on to say that there would be several critical periods during the coming year. “Surviving this year will require $1.1 or $1.2 million in a combination of spending cuts and additional revenues.  It will be a difficult year, but it is not hopeless, although it is just about as bad as it can get.” He added in an interview after the meeting that “It will be practically day to day for this year, at least. It’s going to be really hairy for a year or so. They have got to get the cuts done now. They should have already started on them.”

Joe Newton, Director of Government Services for the Appalachian Council of Government (ACOG) reinforced Daniels’ analysis. “It is bad, just about as bad as it can get. But no one is writing off Williamston. You will be here next year, in one form or another, and the year after that and after that. The town has admitted it is in trouble and that’s a start.”

Newton presented a 10 step recovery plan that is covered in detail elsewhere in this issue. The gist of the plan, however, calls for an increased flow of information about the Town’s finances to the public; the paying or partial paying of only the most pressing bills, while assuring all vendors that the Town will satisfy every debt as it is able to; the immediate discontinuation of non-essential services; an immediate cut in operating expenses; increasing fees such as sanitation, water and sewer, franchise fees and business licenses; and enact a balanced budget within 2-5 weeks.

In June or July the Town would secure a general obligation bond for $700,000 to pay off an outstanding bond anticipation note of $350,000, as well as to acquire funds to operate for the remainder of the year. In August, the Council and Mayor would, as Newton put it, “be forced to raise the tax millage to bring in more revenue. To do so now would help nothing, because the taxes for this year have come in and have been spent. That’s why fee increases are so important. They can generate revenue for this year, and that’s when the Town really needs it.”

Mayor Clardy and the Town Council all acknowledged their responsibility for the Town’s problems, but none of the Council came under fire like Clardy. Speaker after speaker accused him of mismanagement, dishonesty, and incompetence. More than a dozen of those who spoke called for his resignation.

Rocky Burgess spoke first, and raised several issues, such as a $3409 cell phone bill for the account used by Clardy and his assistant, a PDA Clardy said was necessary to keep his appointments calendar available at all times, and a pay advance received by Clardy on his salary last year. He spoke of the Town credit card, and told Clardy he used it like a personal card. He began the long line of calls for Clardy’s resignation. “It’s time to grow up, Mayor. Be a man, admit you squandered our money and misled the Council. Then resign.”

Pat Dawkins elicited the information that the Mayor was aware that the Town was in financial difficulty as early as 2002, while the Council members said they learned of it only a month ago. “The Town’s finances are in disarray, and this administration’s credibility is zero. These numbers aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Gentlemen, this is way past stupidity. This is criminal negligence.” He also called on the Mayor to resign.

Carthel Crout told Clardy, “Mayor, you’re incompetent and in over your head. You’ve lied to us. This town will rally, we will do whatever we have to, as long as Phillip Clardy is not in office.”

Gary Bannister also called on the Mayor to resign, saying that an auditor who specializes in fraud should be called in. “If we were debt free tomorrow, we would be in this same mess in six months if this man was still at the helm. If we don’t do something, we won’t have a town.”

Ruth Ann Ferguson challenged the four councilmen to determine where the money went. She also called for Town Clerk/Treasurer Michelle Starnes resignation, as well as the Mayor’s. “She is culpable for the false information the Council received,” said Ferguson.

Marion Middleton Jr., son of the former mayor, said that “Williamston was founded in 1852, and survived the Civil War, the cotton boom,the cotton bust, the railroad boom, the railroad bust, the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War. But five years under you brought her to her knees, Phillip.”

He added that the Mayor often says that he was elected to do the right thing, not the popular thing. “Here’s your chance to do both, Phillip. Resign.”

Clardy finally responded to Angela Whitmore who asked how an employee (her husband, Ronnie Rowe was fired last year for allegedly falsifying an application for a state license) could be fired for falsifying a document, “How can you stay in office after all the falsifying you have done to this town?”

“It is hard for me to sit and be accused when my knowledge of what really transpires makes me know in my mind and my conscience that I am right. It would be the easiest thing in the world for me to quit, but I will not do that. I have an obligation to the town and its employees,” Clardy responded.

After the meeting, Clardy added that “It is natural for people to want one person or reason to blame all this on. I take responsibility for my part in this trouble as mayor. I’m confident that as people see more and more information come out, they will see things from a different perspective.”

Council to make recommendations at Thursday worksession

All four of Williamston’s Council members said they will do what is necessary to get the town back on solid financial standing

What is necessary according to Accountant Bob Daniels and Appalachian Council of Governments advisor Joe Newton, is dramatic cuts and an increase in revenues.

Councilman Greg Cole will make specific recommendations at a work session this Thursday.

In addition to recommendations he made public Tuesday which included asking the mayor and council to take a cut in salary, Cole said he has others in mind.

Included are having council approve invoices and checks, cutting out all out of town trips, seminars and lunch meetings, parking town vehicles, selling vehicles, stopping use of credit cards, no raises or hiring, and changing the town’s operating hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cole said that based on recommendations by the accountant and ACOG representative, the town needs to come up with at least $1 million in some combination of cuts and revenues. He is looking at making at least $600,000 in cuts and making up approximately $400,000 with fee or other increases.

Cole also said there will have to be cuts in personnel, probably in all departments. He will recommend positions be eliminated and wants the town to look at possible changes in garbage pickup and recycling which could save the town money by cutting expenses.

Councilman Scott said the Tuesday meeting went well. “It’s going to be a hard road, but we will work together. He agreed that there will have to be job and spending cuts for the town. “There’s no way our of cutting jobs,” he said. Scott said as many as a third of the town’s employees may have to be cut.

Councilman David Harvell said he thought the meeting “went pretty well” and that some people were “kind of upset.” He said he is willing to make cuts and to pay more to get the town out of debt and believes that residents are too. “It is my fee too,” he said.

Harvell said that cutting expenses in the budget is a priority for him and that he hates having to cut personnel. He said that he would go along with a cut in the mayor and council salary.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the meeting was very important and allowed citizens to present their opinions. He said that as more facts are made available he believes that citizens will see things in a better prospective. Clardy said the meeting was “not about whether right or wrong, byt about what you think.”

He said the towns staff has already been reduced by three position but declined to be specific.

Though he was asked to resign by a number of speakers during the meeting Tuesday, Clardy said he does not intend to.

The mayor and council will meet this Thursday, February 2 at 6 p.m. at the Williamston Municipal Center for a work session to begin looking at specific details of what to do about the town’s financial situation. The meeting is open to the public.

Three area projects receive SCDOT grant funding

Three area projects have received ISTEA grant funding from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT).

A renovation project in Pelzer, sidewalk project in the Wren school area and a downtown project in Williamston all received funding officials announced this week.

The Town of Pelzer has been approved for a grant from the SCDOT Enhancement program that will allow the renovation of the gymnasium and town center.

Town manager Skip Watkins received notification of the grant, in the amount of $199,920 on Monday, Jan. 29.SCDOT Commissioner Marion Carnell, of the Third Congressional District, issued the notification. Watkins points out that while the approval is welcome, there is still a lot of paper work to complete, and requirements to satisfy before the money can be spent.

For starters, a participation agreement between DOT and Pelzer must be completed and returned by mid-April. In order to be reimbursed for work done, the Town must first receive any encroachment permits needed, as well as environmental clearances, if necessary.

The money will be used to renovate and preserve Pelzer’s most historic building, the old gymnasium and town center, originally built by Pelzer Mills.

A grant in the amount of $200,000 was also issued for sidewalk construction along Wren School Road, from the Middle School up to the intersection of Wren School Road and Highway 81, at Cane’s Corner. District 6 County Councilman Bill Dees has committed an additional $50,000 from the district’s paving funds.

Dees said he is grateful for the DOT funds, adding, “This is a project that has been needed for some time. I’m glad to see it coming about, and happy to add some money to the pot.”

Holt Hopkins, transportation director for Anderson County, says that the main priority is the sidewalk from the middle school. “The conditions are just dangerous for the kids right now, so that’s the first phase we’ll work on. I believe that project also includes some crossovers to the park on the other side of Wren School Road, and possibly some sidewalk construction along the side of the park. But we’ll just have to see how far the money goes.”

The Town of Williamston was awarded a $105,000 grant for a downtown revitalization project being co-sponsored by the Greater Williamston Business Association. The project will involve reworking parking, entrance and exits at Town Square Center, parking on Main St. and other improvements in the downtown area possibly including a fountain or other water feature.

Municipal consultant Rusty Burns helped with the grant application. Burns said local legislators were very supportive in helping obtain the requested grant funding.

Recall currently not an option

By Stan Welch

Financial problems faced by the Town of Williamston have led to a good deal of public dissatisfaction with both the Mayor and Town Council. One of the subjects receiving a lot of attention is the issue of a recall election to remove one or more of the Town’s elected officials from office.

Despite the heated rhetoric being heard around town and read on The Journal’s editorial page, such a recall effort isn’t an option in South Carolina. Joe Newton, director of government operations with the Appalachian Council of Government, confirms that there is simply no law which allows the recall of public officials.

“There is no legislative mechanism for the recall of an elected official,” said Newton, in a recent telephone interview. “There is a bill in the House that would address that issue,  but it won’t go anywhere, in my opinion. For one thing, the Municipal Association will fight it, as well as most elected officials.”

The bill Newton referred to is House Bill 3877, which is a joint resolution sponsored by Representative Ralph Davenport, Jr., of Spartanburg County’s District 37. The resolution was introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee in April of last year. The legislation calls for an amendment to Article XV of the S.C. Constitution, in order to allow “for recalling and removing from public office persons holding public offices . ."

It would make every popularly elected official subject to recall based on the following conditions: physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, any violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony. These would be the only reasons for seeking a recall.

No one could be recalled for at least three months after taking office. Efforts to recall a specific official could only occur every two years. For state officials, a recall petition must contain the signatures of at least 15% of the registered voters at the time of the previous election. All other officials, including school board members, county or municipal Council members, or special district officials would require 25% of the voters registered at the time of the previous election.

If the petition was refused by the appropriate authority, a writ of mandamus could be applied for within ten days. The court would be required to expedite hearing the case as soon as possible.

Newton, however, says that such a bill stands little chance of passing. “The Municipal Association feels that it could be invoked every time someone got mad at a mayor or councilman, or school board member. Who decides what incompetence is, for example?” Newton feels that a local government oversight bill that is also in the House shows much more potential. That would allow the state to step in and exercise some authority once the stuff hits the fan, and a small town is in trouble financially,” says Newton. “That bill is gaining support and will probably pass in the foreseeable future. It’s not a real strong bill, but it is a good start.”

Convenience center nearing completion

By Stan Welch

While the new County Convenience Center on Highway 29 looks shiny and ready to go, there is still a good bit of work to do before the ribbon cutting, says Vic Carpenter, Director of Environmental Services.

The site actually consists of two levels, and while the upper level is landscaped, paved, and fenced in new fencing, the lower level, where larger, bulkier metal and furniture items will be disposed of remains several weeks from completion. “We have to do the lower level where the trucks will come in and out. The rain has slowed us down, and continues to do so. But we’re looking at a date sometime in late spring for the grand opening.”

The cost of buying and preparing the site, including paving, is around $200,000, says Carpenter. “That’s not an exact number, but it’s a ballpark figure. The last convenience center we built was the King David center, and it ran around $480,000. This one is nowhere near that amount.”

The site includes a two story building that resembles a scale house, but Carpenter says that’s where the resemblance ends. “The building was on the site, and it was in very good condition, so we kept it. We’re using the ground floor to store mowers and other equipment that the department uses in this end of the County, instead of hauling things around. The upstairs is vacant right now, but we hope to put it to use, like maybe a magistrate’s office or a sheriff’s office location. As we build these convenience centers, we’re trying to turn them into County assets, instead of just a place to bring your trash.”

Clarification:

A portion of a story in last week’s Journal in which Williamston Councilman Otis Scott said he will do a better job for the citizens needs clarification.

In the story, Scott was quoted as saying he doesn’t need anyone to tell him how to vote.

The statement from Scott should have read: 

Scott also said he doesn’t need anyone to tell him who he should vote with.

The statement was made in reference to a Letter to the Editor from a citizen who stated the councilman should vote with two other councilmen on certain issues.

In the story Scott said, “I will vote for the best interest of the people of Williamston. If everybody criticizing would work for the betterment of the town, the town would be better off,” he said.

The Councilman said he welcomes calls and comments from citizens. He can be reached at 847-4777 or 221-7467.

Deputies investigate scam, shooting and fight incidents

Smart thinking by a Pelzer resident prevented her from being ripped off in a grant scam. Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated the following incidents:

PELZER

Jan. 19 – M. J. Giovanni and D. D. Singleton received a report of a possible fraud scheme. Melissa Gardo, of 415 Ballard Rd., reported that she had received a phone call saying she was being awarded a grant of $12,500 for paying her taxes on time each year. The caller identified himself as an agent for the grant department of American Advantage Company, of Florida. They were sending someone with the first payment of $100, but they needed her bank account number. She asked for a phone number and was given one which proved phony. She asked about calling the Better Business Bureau and the caller hung up.

Jan. 26 – R.S.Turner and S.E. Rushton investigated a report of someone violating a trespass notice and malicious damage to personal property. Michelle Dunlap, of 18 Welborn St., reported that her estranged husband had come to her house and begun an argument, despite being on trespass notice from the court. She went in the house and later discovered the tires on a friend’s car to be slashed, though she did not see who did it. She signed a warrant to have her husband arrested on the trespass violation.

Jan. 26 – W.T. Cunningham responded to a complaint of criminal domestic violence and assault and battery. Upon arriving at 178 Richardson Dr., he spoke with Wayne Young, 52, WM, 5’9", 180 pounds, brn/hazel, who stated that his wife had slapped him during an argument and his stepson had punched him. Further investigation revealed to Cunningham that Young had been the aggressor and that his wife Debbie Young Mauldin had acted in self defense, as had 19 year old Zachery Mauldin. Wayne Young was arrested and transported to ACDC.

PIEDMONT

Jan. 19 – J.D. Shelton and J.G. Stevens responded to a possible drug overdose at the Executive Inn on McNeely Road, where they found the Pelzer Rescue Squad attempting to revive a patient who was later pronounced dead at the Greenville Memorial Hospital. The victim was identified as Richard Neal Todd, WM, 37, 6’1", 310 pounds, of 210 Sandra Avenue in Greenville.

Jan.19 – D.W. Davis responded to a complaint of burglary at 210 Hattie Road, where Scott Schupbach reported the theft of several power tools and other equipment from his home. The tools were valued at $1200.

Jan. 19 – G.M. Hayden and T.L. Porter responded to Wren High school where a private contractor conducting a drug sweep with a canine unit had located a book bag which the dog alerted to. A razor blade was found in the bag, whereupon a female teacher was summoned to help search a 16 year old white female who the book bag belonged to. A baggie of material appearing to be marijuana was found and the girl’s parents were summoned to the school. Her identity was not released due to her juvenile status.

Jan. 28 – G. J. Turner and M.K. Davis responded to 44 Spring Meadow Court where Gary Parnell reported that his friend Daniel Stokes, WM, 38, 6’, 175 pounds, grey/green, of 127 Abound Rd. had broken his car window. While the officers were on the scene, Stokes returned in a highly intoxicated state. He was subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct and malicious damage to property and transported to ACDC.

Jan. 28 – P. N. Turner and Deputy Blakeslee responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle and shots fired near Blossom Branch Road. Blakeslee saw a vehicle matching the description, a black SUV, as it turned into the Sav-Way at Blossom Branch Rd. and Hwy. 86. The vehicle was stopped, and eventually searched. A .25 caliber automatic pistol was found. The driver, Jack Kamon Wade, WM, 20 5’8", 216 pounds, red/brn,  claimed it had not been fired, but it was lying in the floor board, along with a magazine. Wade was arrested for a violation of SC gun laws, and three juveniles in the vehicle were turned over to their parents.

Jan. 28 – D. P. Hodges received a report of a brown van whose driver, a WM in his early forties, pumped more than $39 worth of gas, then drove away from the RaceWay gas station at 3010 Hwy. 153. The SC tag number on the van was 278-BAG. A check of the tag turned up a vehicle which did not match that description.

Jan. 29 – J. M. Roberts responded to Travelier Industries, Inc. at 425 Oak Road, where Cathy Bagwell reported that someone had entered the fenced location and stolen a 1997 teal green Chevrolet 3500 dual wheel pickup truck, SC tag# P204184, and a 2006 black tandem axle trailer. The two items were valued at a total of $12,150.

WILLIAMSTON

Jan. 19 – R.S. Turner investigated a complaint of assault and battery at 617 HITaylor Road. Reports state Brandon Bentley, WM, 20, was at that location, bleeding from the nose and mouth. Bentley stated that James Earle Tate Jr., BM, 20, 6’3", 185 pounds, blk/brn, of 616 Hi Taylor Rd., had begun an argument with him and punched him. Tate claimed that Bentley threw a beer bottle at him, but the officer couldn’t find any bottle, or other witnesses. Tate was arrested and transported to ACDC.

This Week in the House

By Kelly Mitchell

The chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc Property Tax Committee says he thinks the House tax plan “would solve the war between public schools and taxpayers.”

“This is the King Kong issue of this session,” said Bill Cotty, R-Columbia, at a weekly ETV press teleconference Tuesday.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the two tax reform bills to be discussed in the Ways and Means Committee this week would amend the state Constitution to allow property tax relief and provide enabling legislation to do it.

The plan proposes a two-cent increase on sales tax, Cotty said. In return, property taxes on owner-occupied homes would be replaced except for bond indebtedness. This would cut property taxes by about 85 per cent.

Cotty said the House proposal would also do away with sales tax on groceries and limit property reassessment to when property is sold.

Harrell said that contrary to what he is hearing from the state Chamber of Commerce, business leaders in his community are asking him to “please go get this done.”

“The state Chamber, from what I’m hearing back home, is not indicative of businesses around the state,” Harrell said, adding it may show what some big businesses in South Carolina think, but not what smaller businesses think.

Rep. Herb Kirsh, D-York, said the House plan would not hurt business as much as they think. 

“We still have property tax on cars, boats and some personal items,” Kirsh said. “But if they get point of sale (reassessment), you know that’s a big selling point to me... its not like its going up every five years.”

“Without a question, homeowners have been paying a disproportionate amount of the property taxes,” Cotty said.

Cotty said taxpayers support the sales tax increase because they have a choice. “Do you buy the $10 shirt or the $30 shirt?” Cotty said.

Kirsh said taking the food tax down to zero is important in his district, which abuts North Carolina. 

“Sales tax you pay out in little dribbles as you buy something, with property tax you get a bill in November or October and it just scares a lot of folks,” Kirsh said. “A lot of folks have a hard time paying it out all at one time.”

Cotty said his district’s mom-and-pop businesses want point-of-sale reassessment and tax reform. “Manufacturers and some others have somewhat of a disproportionate voice in the state Chamber and that is not what I am hearing at my local chamber meeting,” Cotty said.

Harrell equated fixing a tax problem to curing a virus.

“If you partially fix a virus or an infection and if you don’t completely wipe it out, it grows back with a vengeance,” he said.

“And so our thought process has been if you’re going to deal with a tax you ought to completely eliminate what you are trying to deal with rather than doing a partial decrease,” Harrell said.

Editor’s note: To see this press conference in its entirety on the Web, go to: http://www.scetv.org/television/streaming/state_house_today/2006_state_house_coverage/harrell_archive.cfm

Kelly Mitchell is a graduate student at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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