County's rain tax heads for defeat
By Jerry Bellune
Lexington County's proposed storm water fee appears headed for defeat.
Sources say only 3 council members – Erin Bergeson of Chapin and Debbie Summers and Todd Cullum of the Cayce-West Columbia area – favor the tax on all taxable properties in the county.
The SC Poultry Growers Association is strongly opposed, said Donna Proveaux of the association.
"We built our farms with berms according to DHEC regulations," she said.
"These storm water requirements could cost some of our members $30,000 to correct to get a discount on the tax."
Critics concede almost $200 million may be needed to repair the county's drainage system and control flooding,
But, they say,the tax will harm economic development and growth.
"What will this do to Amazon, Nephron, Michelin and US Foods?" asked council member Darrell Hudson, a tax opponent
Chambers of commerce leaders question the timing and the targets of the tax. Only churches, schools, govenment buildings and non-profits would be tax exempt.
Lexington, Gaston and West Columbia municipal leaders immediately opted out of the proposal.
Sources said Irmo had initially been opposed and Batesburg-Leesville, a poultry center, may consider it.
The county estimates the tax would be $78 a year on the average home and up to $156 a year on homes of 6,000 square feet or more.
Critics say the county put off repairing the system for years to avoid raising taxes.
Now, amid a pandemic, the council wants what critics call a punishing tax to repair its failing system.
The county says storm water problems cost an estimated $3 million a year.
To repair the damage, the county estimates it needs:
• $114 million for storm water system repairs.
• $76 million for community flooding problems.
Many property owners call the tax unfair because it's not their property that causes the problem.
It's over-developed property north of Lake Murray where the major problems are.
Where was the county council when developers were over building in low-lying areas, they ask.
The tax, they say, would have to be paid even by property owners in areas where storm water is no problem.
Property owners' taxes will be based on an estimate of the additional storm water runoff it sends off its property.
This estimate is based on the size of rooftops, driveways, parking lots, etc. called "impervious areas."
Yet the runoff in many parts of the county never leaves the propoerty,
The average Lexington County home has about 2,800 square feet of impervious area.
This is termed the “equivalent residential unit” or ERU.
The estimated monthly storm water tax will be billed annually beginning in October 2021 at $4 - $8 a month per ERU.
County Council plans a public hearing at 6 pm Tuesday, Dec. 8. Should the proposal pass a 2nd vote, a final vote would be Tuesday, Dec. 22.
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