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Articles on Taxes in Dorchester County, South Carolina

Councilman Murphree's Tirade Misses the Point

July 19, 2006

To the Editor of the Summerville Journal Scene:

On the Letters to the Editor page last Friday, July 14th, Councilman Michael Murphree’s tirade is in my opinion political hyperbabble (hyperbole). Mr. Murphree had the political sympathy of many within the Dorchester County Taxpayers Association when he ran for his office because he espoused much of what the organization’s members wanted in a Councilman – that is, to control development and to plan to maintain Summerville and Dorchester County residents’ quality of life ... not to enhance the developers’ pocket-books. Nowhere in his campaign literature did he mention that he was in the construction business or that once elected he would join the Council members who had already ignored those aforementioned principles.

In the two years he has held office, not once did he vote to deny any of the many developers’ requests for zoning changes to residential status. He was 100% in favor of the Berlin Myers Parkway extension (BMP-III), even though the council’s appointed committee returned with a recommendation that it wasn’t worth the expense, since it would not relieve traffic as purported initially. It does open the door for more development.

When the Council members changed the priority of the BMP-III to last among the other needed road projects in a third reading of the ordinance, pressure by those on the feed line forced the Council to illegally vote on a fourth reading to reinstate the BMP-III to the top of the project list. DCTA warned the Council that this might be illegal, but Attorney Frampton said it was okay; Councilman Elliott, to his credit, was the only member who voted against the majority.

Now, Mr. Murphree is whining that the entire fault lies with the state’s Infrastructure Bank and the disproportionate amount of funds for roads allocated to Charleston and Berkeley Counties. This Council pushed for and got a one-percent road tax increase to be added to the sales tax without making sure that a $38-million-dollar subsidy was guaranteed to make up for the difference between what was collected from the road tax and what was needed to finish all 22 road projects within the county. Now, the BMP-III is estimated to cost $60.25 million of the $125 million in road tax collections over a 25-year period. Worse yet, instead of a $38 million shortfall, it is now $75 million! Evidently, Charleston and Berkeley had the foresight our Council didn’t to make the arrangements for a state subsidy before starting their projects.

Mr. Murphree implies that, if money for roads isn’t forthcoming from the state and federal governments for the continuation of what could be an Atlanta-type sprawl, “then we should prepare a requiem mass for our dearly beloved Dorchester County.” Yet, he is even now pushing to spend millions to extend sewer lines so that more developers can tie in to them. If he gets his way, I’ll have a mass said for the taxpayers.

Joe Kress, Corresponding Secretary, DCTA

It's Not Yours To Give

July 5, 2006

To the Editor of the Summerville Journal-Scene

I was pretty shocked to read the story in a recent paper, “Funding for Children in Crisis.”  Dorchester County Council wants to put an “advisory” referendum on the November ballot in favor of funding for Children in Crisis.  Again, Council is showing no leadership at all in this decision.

The question on the ballot should be, “Should County Council discontinue the practice of funding PRIVATE charities with taxpayers’ money?” Now that’s a question with teeth – but they wouldn’t have the intestinal fortitude to put that one on the ballot.

While I’m sure that Children in Crisis is a very good cause (as are Palmetto House and the YMCA), it’s not a County Councilman’s job to give my hard-earned tax dollars to ANY charity.  A charity is given a charitable designation for a reason – and that’s so people willingly give it money!  Let this charity earn its money the way other charities do … by asking for donations, or selling hamburgers like Kiwanis did.  You admit in this story Children in Crisis has already been given $500,000 by the state Legislature and County Council gave them $80,000 last year.  The “advisory” referendum (if it passes) is going to net them another $378,450 (per year)!  The Boston Tea Party was the result of a two-cent tax on tea.  Seems like it’s past time to get out the war paint again!

Council already has a history of trying to avoid hard decisions by appointing ad-hoc committees (to decide how many houses should be built on Watson Hill and how to spend a 20% increase in sales tax for roads that everyone is ever-so-increasingly sorry they voted for).  Then they IGNORE the committee’s advice.  It’s their way of disguising a decision that they didn’t have the guts to make…and it’s a very sad way to conduct the County’s business.

Everyone remembers the story about Davy Crockett and the $20,000 that Congress was going to vote on to give to the widow of a naval officer whose house had burnt.  He said, “We have the right, as individuals to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity, but as members of Congress we have no right to so appropriate a dollar of the public money. … I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”  Members of County Council, if you want to give Children in Crisis your own money, get out your checkbooks and do so, but mine is not yours to give – and this goes for ALL charities!

We need LEADERSHIP on County Council but it seems the only thing that they’re good at is building this county into gridlock at taxpayers’ expense.  So if there are excess tax dollars (contingency funds) after the bills have been paid this year, please send mine back to me because I’ve overpaid my debt.  Don’t give it to charity … it’s not yours to give!

Sue E. Braund

Tax Farming in Dorchester County

April 4, 2005

Summerville Journal Scene

Last week, I heard that South Carolina was rated once more at the bottom of all the states … well, not all the way at the bottom, only 49th out of 50 states on a rating of the ethical standards of local and state governments.

At the Dorchester County Taxpayers Association meeting Saturday, April 2nd, the County Assessor revealed that the developers who are killing us with congestion on the roads, exploding infrastructure costs, and a negatively affected quality of life … all at taxpayer expense, are in addition enjoying excessive property tax relief authorized by the feather merchants at the state government level.

It seems that the thousands of unsold lots awaiting improvements in the hundreds of new developments in Dorchester County are taxed below the agriculture tax rate. How many of you can claim such favoritism?

Within a couple of months, we taxpayers are going to be handed a tax bill that may require doctors’ care because of sticker shock.

In May, we’re going to be hit with the 20% sales tax increase to begin paying for the Berlin Myers Parkway (BMP) extension that will encourage still more tax-subsidized developments. Within another month, we’ll be slammed with the reassessment notice telling us the increased value of our property since the 1998 developers’ invasion became serious.

We also are going to be paying for $125 million dollars in bonded debt laid on to our property tax bill so that the BMP extension can be completed ASAP. The sales tax increase will take 25 years to pay for the projected roads and the $125 million property tax money, contrary to the sales pitch that the Chamber of Commerce and the special interests told us, is not enough to pay for the 262 miles of resurfacing, not even enough to cover the number two project – widening Dorchester Road. Seems the state and federal governments “ain’t” going to provide the $60 million that the feather merchants promised.

In addition, this year the District 2 School Board will once again unleash demands for millions of dollars for operations to pay for books, maintenance and a host of other requirements. That flim-flam scheme to buy back new schools from a pseudo non-profit corporation that owns the schools on a lease-to-purchase arrangement costs taxpayer a ton of money more than would normally be spent, if the taxpayers had allowed to exercise their constitutional right to vote marketing scheme “for developers only.”

So fellow taxpayers, our County Council, blinded by obvious self-interests keeps approving zoning changes for residential development, banking on you to pick up the cost of supporting the infrastructure costs. What are these immediate costs? The most recent estimate from a study of the southeastern U.S. is that each newly constructed unit requires from $12,000 to as much as $15,000 that current residents must advance to pay for the sewers, pumping stations, sewage disposal plants, schools, fire, EMS and police protection and the buildings to house these facilities, vehicles, fire trucks, ROADS, and a thousand other requirements. One of our local developers recently offered the county $400 per unit as a token of good will for the aforementioned infrastructure requirements. Nice!

Soon, we’ll receive the property tax bill that should at last waken people’s prolonged stupor. Maybe then we will say enough is enough!

Joe Kress

Motor Vehicle Tax Tips
  • If you average 15,000 miles or more on your vehicle, you may be eligible to receive a high mileage discount on your car taxes.

  • This request must be made the same month that your tags are due for renewal. The discount varies depending on the make, model and year and can not exceed more than 40% of the value of the vehicle.

  • Always read the assessment on your tax bill. The assessment divided by 10.5% will reveal the value the Assessor uses to figure the tax. If you feel the value is not correct and you wish to appeal the value, you will need to obtain a written appraisal of fair market value on letterhead stationary from a reputable auto dealership and return it to the Auditor’s office.

  • If you are over sixty-five years of age, you may have a discount on your registration fee at the highway department. Please contact the Auditor’s Office before paying your tax bill. You may then pay only the taxes and send the discounted renewal fee along with a copy of your paid tax receipt to the highway department.

  • If you move out of State and have time left on your tag, you may mail in your tag, SC registration card and proof of registration in the new State to the Dorchester County Auditor for a refund of the portion of your tag that is left.

  • If you sell your vehicle and your tag still has time left before it expires, you may bring or mail your tag to the Auditor’s office along with a copy of the bill of sale to apply for a refund of that portion of your tag that is left.

  • If you buy a new vehicle and you have a tag from another vehicle that still has time left to be used, you may be able to transfer it to your new vehicle. This would help save you some money, as you wouldn’t pay taxes on the new vehicle until the tag runs out. Just remember that if the tag has only a few months left on it when transferred, the auditor may not receive information from the Highway Department in time to send you a bill on the correct vehicle in order to renew that tag. Be sure to call the Auditor’s Office and provide information on the new vehicle so that your tag does not expire.