Local Government Fund shortfall could lead to higher taxes, lower services in Georgetown County

  • Thursday, February 27, 2014

  • Updated Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:50 pm

Georgetown County leaders say the amount in the state budget slated for local governments is not enough to pay for mandated programs.

And they say shortfalls could lead to higher taxes and lower services at a local level.

The South Carolina legislature is working to pass its budget, part of which deals with the Local Government Fund (LGF) created to help pay for state mandates.

Those mandates include Department of Social Services, Probation and Parole, and the Department of Juvenile Services, among others.

Last year, the state funded the LGF at $182 million in recurring money and $30 million in non-recurring money, according to Georgetown County Council member Jerry Oakley (R-Murrells Inlet).

That is the same amount that the Ways and Means Committee has approved for this year, he said.

The budget will go before the full House and then the state Senate will create a budget also.

A committee of both House and Senate members will decide the final budget.

“It is disappointing that the Ways and Means Committee refused to increase funding in the LGF because the LGF represents a tax rebate in the form of property tax relief, takes the burden of funding state services off of property taxpayers, and a reduced LGF results in higher taxes and lower services at the local level,” Oakley said.

“Local government needs that funding. I'd like to see the state fully fund the local governments as the statute provides.”

Originally designated as 4.5 percent of the state's general operating budget, the amount of the LGF is now an arbitrary amount, Georgetown County administrator Sel Hemingway said.

“We appreciate the efforts made by state leaders to restore a portion of the LGF, but we would like to get back to the 4.5 percent,” Hemingway said.

“Spending on the local level for state mandates exceeds 4.5 percent, so even on that level local governments could be contributing to mandates by the state.”

He explained that with a 4.5 percent LGF local and state governments would share the burden of declining economic times and share benefits of prosperous times.

Sen. Ray Cleary (R-Murrells Inlet), who represents parts of Georgetown and Horry counties, said if the state lived up to providing 4.5 percent to local governments the non-recurring amount would be $104 million instead of $30 million.

“I would like to see us give a little more than last year,” Cleary said.

He said since the amount this year is the same as last year the LGF “shouldn't have a negative affect on taxpayers.”

Rep. Stephen Goldfinch (R-Pawleys Island) said he would like to research the LGF and comment at a later time.

“I am very interested in finding out what the Ways and Means Committee is doing about the LGF,” Goldfinch said.

“I need to do a little investigation before the budget reaches my desk.”

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