1.14: Multi-county business parks
(Week of April 9, 2002)
APRIL 5, 2002 - - The House Ways & Means Committee
is expected next week to consider a bill that could redress consequences
of a law that allows rural counties to partner with big counties
for "multi-county" industrial parks. But the proposal
may be losing steam due to pressure from counties, which get a fiscal
boost because of the law.
Under the current law, multi-county parks are allowed as incentives
to attract businesses. Rural and wealthy counties are able to partner
to offer property tax breaks that exempt companies from the taxes
if they pay a fee. These "fees in lieu of taxes," are
often significantly lower than the property taxes. Counties then
use fees to pay infrastructure costs to build roads, sewers and
other things needed to create multi-county parks. Part of the fees
also is split between counties based on agreements to create multi-county
But rural counties, sources say, often generate
only 1 percent of the final fee, which doesn't do much to help those
areas. Additionally, when counties negotiate tax incentives to attract
businesses, they erode tax bases of school districts, which also
don't often receive part of the fees generated from the tax break.
Last year, the Horry County School District filed a lawsuit to stop
the practice, but lost.
This year, Reps. Lewis Vaughn, R-Greenville, and
Vida Miller, D-Georgetown, filed legislation to make the system
fairer and force counties to distribute part of the fees from funds
generated by multi-county parks to school and fire districts.
This week, a Ways & Means subcommittee amended
the proposal so that school and fire districts could get some of
the tax incentive fees - - but only after costs to pay for roads,
sewers and other county services in the multi-county park are paid
for. That amendment riled school and municipal officials, who say
little will change if the amended bill moves forward. In fact, they
say the amendment really doesn't do much at all.
Look next week for school districts to argue in
favor of the original legislation, which has almost 60 sponsors,
to provide more money for schools. On their side should be cities,
fire districts and other special purpose districts. Pushing the
amended version will be counties.