The Van Wyck News

Volume 6 Number 10
A Voice for Freedom         3 June 2014
Raising Taxes
Above the Cap  
     State law provides that Counties may raise property taxes each year by a percentage equal to the percentage growth in population plus the rate of inflation expressed as a percentage. For the coming fiscal year (2014 - 15) this percentage is 3.11%, or about 2.35 mils. 
     State law also provides that the budget for the Solicitor and the Public Defender may not decrease from one year to the next, and further that if the County is required to make payments due to a court order that the taxes required to raise the required money may be assessed in addition to the statutory cap on tax increases.
     Last year about this time Lancaster County was under some pressure because the time prisoners were being held in jail awaiting trial was excessive, a violation of the prisoners' right to a speedy trial and also leading to overcrowding at the County Jail. The Solicitor and Public Defender each requested $150k in their respective budgets to hire additional attorneys to reduce this problem. County Council rejected these requests.
     During the fall of 2013 the Solicitor, Public Defender and County Administration worked with the Chief Judge of the Sixth Judicial District on a court order to get the job done. The Court Order was signed in December 2013. It sets forth a rigid schedule for the progress of  criminal matters through the judicial system, assigns specific responsibilities for the various things that must be done and provides for the dismissal of charges if the schedule is not met.
     The initial $476k package proposed by the County Administrator has been cut back to $200k by the County Finance Committee and is recommended as a special tax above the cap. The funding is needed, and it comes with reporting requirements and a promise of more support if it is required. It has no business being a special tax. This is a core function of government that is not working properly. It should be part of the core tax burden.
     Tax to the Max is pervasive and deliberate. 
Planning Commission
      At its meeting on 20 May 2014 the Planning Commission approved 606 regular homes and 100 age restricted homes at the 20 May meeting, representing $18MM in required capital investment for new schools by the School District. Contributions to the School District were set a $500 per house payable to the county for transmission to the school district at closing. The School District was invited to provide a contribution level that would be more acceptable than $500, but when contacted for comment, Dr. Gene Moore, Superintendent, declined to discuss the matter.

County Council Meets
on the Budget

     County Council will meet  for a public hearing and to approve second reading on the FY 2014 - 15 Budget on 9 June at 6:30 PM in the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St., Lancaster. The short time frame and almost complete lack of public discussion  of the budget are no accident. If this bothers you, and it should, come and speak up at the meeting.      

School Board Elections
     The Lancaster County Board of Education faces many challenges in the coming four years, including what to do about capacity issues raised by uncontrolled homebuilding in Indian Land and the possible need to form a separate Indian Land School District. The School Board is responsible for the education of about 12,000 students and has a budget close to $100MM each year, approximately double the size of the County Council budget.
     Four of the seven seats on the School Board are up for election in November 2014 in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7. District 1  serves the southern section of the Panhandle including Sun City and Van Wyck. This District was created as a result of redistricting after the 2010 census and has no incumbent. District 3 serves the Buford area; this seat is held by Board Chair Bobby Parker. District 5 serves the Elgin area; this seat is held by Janice Dabney. District 7 serves the Indian Land area; this seat is held by Don McCorkle. These are nonpartisan positions; the filing period is 1 – 15 August 2014 for candidates desiring to seek these positions. Mary Ann Hudson at the Lancaster County Board of Elections in the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St., Lancaster, (803) 285 – 2969 has more information. 

Primary Elections 10 June
Runoff Elections 24 June
    The Republican and Democratic political parties will hold primary elections on 10 June with runoff elections on 24 June. Registered voters will be able to vote in either party's primary election at their usual polling place by showing a photo ID and asking for either a Republican or a Democratic ballot. South Carolina does not register voters by political party; party affiliation is not required to vote in either primary.
     To win a primary election in which there are more than two candidates the top vote getter must have at least 40% of the vote cast. If no candidate has more than 40% of the vote cast, the top two vote getters face each other in the runoff election, held 24 June. Once again, any registered voter can vote in either runoff election simply by presenting a photo ID and asking for the Republican or Democratic ballot.
Privacy Policy

CDC Meeting
     The Community Development Club will meet on Tuesday 3 June 2014 at 7:30 PM for the community meeting. Plans for the 4 July fireworks display put on by the Van Wyck Fire Department and the 16th Annual Van Wyck Fall Festival on 6 September will be discussed.     

Budget Blues
Tax to the Max Continues
     The big news is that the County will once again more than max out the property tax increase. The 2.35 mil maximum increase allowed by State  law will be supplemented by a special tax of 0.75 mils to provide extra assistance to the Solicitor, Public Defender and Magistrate's Court. This special tax will appear on tax bills forever (see "Raising Taxes Above the Cap" to the left). In addition Council, whining that there is never enough money, is proposing to seek additional taxes such as a business tax and/or a hospitality tax (on restaurants and bars). This in addition to the proposed 1% sales tax to appear on the ballot this November to do capital projects as yet unnamed.
     The next big news is that after all the complaints that there is never enough money, Council is opting to start a five year, $1.8MM program to put the Fire Service into the extrication business and deny, among other things, the Sheriff the additional deputies called for in the second year of his five year plan, presented last year. This, despite the fact that the Lancaster Firefighters program, begun a couple of years ago, begins draining cash from the budget in February 2015 at the rate of about $500k/year.
     The excuse offered by Council are the typical "it's all because of unfunded mandates and unfulfilled promises from the State." While there is some truth to this assertion, by far the bigger problem is Council's own willingness to spend money outside the budget, refusal to accept that multi-year commitments made in one year must be paid when they come due, and desire to show the big thing in one step, not realizing that almost anything can be accomplished if the steps are small enough.
     It is time to start keeping track of who is voting for this stuff. There is an election in November, and some changes will be possible.   


J.R. Wilt, Editor