Clinton City Council wants State of South Carolina to return more money
Clinton City Council is backing the legislative agenda for the Municipal Association of South Carolina during the General Assembly’s 2016 session, which begins this month.
Council, meeting Monday night in the M.S. Bailey Municipal Center, voted unanimously to adopt the MASC’s lobbying effort for state lawmakers.
One of the five points of the legislative agenda calls for the state to fund services provided by municipalities.
MASC is asking lawmakers to “support consistent and fair funding of the Local Government Fund as the stable revenue source it was originally intended to be for cities and towns.”
The local government fund was started about 28 years ago as a way for the state to return money collected locally to municipalities and counties. State law requires the General Assembly to fully fund the account.
But over the last eight years, funding for the fund has been reduced by state lawmakers. Last year, the state funded only 64% of what was due cities and counties.
Monday night, Mayor Bob McLean asked City Manager Frank Stovall how much Clinton is being shorted by the state. He said if the state fully funded the local government account, Clinton would receive between $55,000 and $60,000 more a year.
Since the state stopped funding local government at 100%, Clinton “has been hit between $250,000 and $300,000,” the city manager said.
Stovall said the money is used to partially fund police and fire protection in Clinton. The money does not go into the city’s utility fund, he said.
“This directly impacts public safety in our community,” he said.
Local governments – including Clinton City Council – and county governments – including Laurens County Council – have been pressuring the General Assembly to fund the local government account according to state law, but the situation continues to worsen every year.
The other four bullet points in the MASC’s legislative agenda for 2016 include: streamlining the business licensing processes; embrace the sharing economy; fix roads; and clear blight.
“For businesses, time is money,” the MASC said in information about this year’s legislative agenda. “Implementing streamlined business licensing practices saves businesses time and supports local economic growth.”
That process would mainly be a local issue, but the state group wants the state to coordinate efforts to create consistent business licensing practices across cities and towns.
By embracing the sharing economy, the association wants lawmakers to embrace new business models that change the way consumers and businesses interact while “maintaining cities’ ability to efficiently and effectively provide for public service and public safety…”
Lawmakers learned late in 2015 that state revenues were going to be $1.2 billion more than anticipated, leaving many to hope the state will spend much of that money fixing the state’s crumbling highways and bridges.
“Repairing and maintaining existing roads and infrastructure is about more than fixing potholes,” the MASC said. “It’s about encouraging and supporting statewide economic development with infrastructure that can accommodate new industry and support existing industry.”
The statewide group is asking lawmakers to ensure that municipalities have a voice in how local C funds are distributed and used in a county.
C funds are gasoline tax money returned to all 46 counties to fund improvements to state, county and municipal roads. By law, each county establishes a County Transportation Committee appointed by the county’s legislative delegation to administer the C fund program.
The final area of legislative interest in 2016 is to clear blight. “Dilapidated structures pose a public safety threat in municipalities,” the MASC said. “Cities and town need additional tools to clear blight to ensure the safety or residents and visitors and to spur economic development opportunities for business owners.”
MASC is asking lawmakers to pass the Dilapidated Buildings Act that gives cities a way to partner with the private sector to get rid of dilapidated structures.
At Monday night’s meeting, the city’s new director of economic development was introduced and welcomed by council. Marvin Moss, who retired Dec. 31 as the executive director of the Laurens County Development Corporation, began work Monday and will work part-time to lure industry to Clinton.
In a matter related to economic development, council voted unanimously to “de-annex” 16.3 acres of property on Hwy. 72 near I-26.
The unprecedented move was requested by Laurens County, the anticipated property owner – if County Council approves an ordinance to purchase the land.
Once taken out of the city limits, the property will become eligible for economic development funding sources that are available to the county, Stovall said.
If everything is approved – the city will hold a public hearing and second and final reading in Feb. if county council approves the plan – the property will be a joint product development project between Laurens County, the City of Clinton, the Clinton Economic Development Corporation and the Laurens County Development Corporation.
Meeting for the first time in 2016, Mayor McLean and members of city council presented awards to the Christmas parade winners and the Spirit of Christmas decorating contest winners. (See pictures inside this issue).