FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The House of Representatives unanimously passed H.3137, an amendment to the Local Government Fund that would adopt a new formula and give an upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars back to counties and cities across South Carolina.
“When they addressed the Local Government Fund that was one of the best things they could have done,” Florence County Council Chairman, Waymon Mumford, said.
Created in the 1990s, the purpose of the Local Government Fund is to help counties and cities pay for essential services like public safety, courts and other state mandates relieving the burden from property tax payers.
For Florence County, Mumford said it takes around $60 million a year and almost 800 employees to do.
"It's a tremendous cost so just to get this hopefully from the Local Government Fund is going to be a big help," he continued.
The current formula combines a county's population and up to 4 percent and a half percent of the state's budget from the previous year which was doable until 2008.
After the Great Recession, the state started cutting back on funding, causing a shortage of millions of dollars for local governments. In 2016, the amount Florence County was supposed to receive was $7.1 million dollars, but they only got $5.1 million, which is a shortfall of $2 million.
"So the county has to make that up with the amount of monies that we get from tax payers dollars so that's why the Local Government Fund was so important because we need every penny we can get," Mumford said.
Josh Rhodes with the South Carolina Association of Counties said the proposed bill will create a new, more reliable formula for the fund. It will increase the amount of the fund by the same amount the general fund increases doing away with the current formula.
"Counties and cities for that matter would know exactly what it's going up, they can budget that amount and we can start to see some yearly increases in the fund," Rhodes said.
Mumford said Florence County would see an increase of about $250,000. While the amount doesn't seem like much, for rural counties it's a big step towards providing more for essential services, like law enforcement and EMS.
"The rural counties, the smaller counties that may not as large or robust of a property tax base to fund their own services, this gives them relief and tax payers relief," Rhodes said.
Mumford said if the bill passes, he hopes it will go into effect before July 1st so the county can include those funds in their 2019-2020 budget.
Read the full bill below:
A BILL TO AMEND CHAPTER 27, TITLE 6, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE STATE AID TO SUBDIVISIONS ACT, SO AS TO CHANGE THE NAME OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUND, TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE FUND RECEIVE NO LESS THAN FOUR AND ONE-HALF PERCENT OF THE GENERAL FUND REVENUES OF THE LATEST COMPLETED FISCAL YEAR, TO DELETE A PROVISION REGARDING MIDYEAR CUTS, TO PROVIDE THAT THE APPROPRIATION TO THE FUND MUST BE INCREASED BY THE SAME PERCENTAGE THAT GENERAL FUND REVENUES ARE PROJECTED TO INCREASE, IF APPLICABLE, BUT NOT TO EXCEED FIVE PERCENT, TO REQUIRE THAT THE PERCENTAGE INCREASE, IF APPLICABLE, BE INCLUDED IN ALL STAGES OF THE BUDGET PROCESS, TO AMEND THE DISTRIBUTION PERCENTAGE OF THE FUND, AND TO DELETE A PROVISION REQUIRING AMENDMENTS TO THE STATE AID TO SUBDIVISIONS ACT BE INCLUDED IN SEPARATE LEGISLATION.