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South Carolina Considers State Property Tax

by Kevin Baker, Atlanta, December 2014

 

South Carolina businesses and industries could end up paying a statewide property tax to fund public education if the General Assembly approves proposed legislation in 2015.

 

Bill 4407 failed in the last session but the sponsor plans to reintroduce it next year.

 

Court-ordered Changes

 

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in November, 2014 that legislators and school districts must work together to solve the state's "constitutional deficiency" and provide an adequate education for all children in the state.

 

The ruling in the 21-year-old education funding lawsuit says lawmakers have failed to ensure that students have the opportunity to succeed. It orders both sides to present their plan to the justices "within a reasonable time."

 

Tax Uniformity

 

The goal of the proposed statewide property tax is to promote tax uniformity. Currently, the tax rates set by schools vary widely. Districts with strong tax bases can set low rates, giving them the opportunity to attract even more businesses and industries. Meanwhile, districts with little industry have to set higher tax rates to collect needed school funding. This serves as a disincentive to attract new businesses and industries.

 

If a statewide property tax is approved, the funds collected would be dispersed across the state. Sponsors say that would level the playing field for economic development in South Carolina.