Richland County, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) has said since 2016, that Richland County unlawfully used part of the Penny Tax funding. The tax was approved by voters in 2012 and put in place in 2013.
On Wednesday the South Carolina Supreme Court sided with the SCDOR saying that penny tax funds should only go towards transportation projects.
The 2016 audit by the SCDOR revealed that Penny Tax funds were being used on non-transportation projects. That includes $25,000 monthly/ea. for two public relations firms. The audit also revealed $554,000 went towards the Small Local Business Enterprise (SLBE).
According to the court ruling, the SLEB was established as a county-wide program intended to support all facets of County operations—not just Penny Tax projects.
While the State Supreme Court agreed with the SCDOR on their funding concerns, they did not agree that the SCDOR should withhold Penny Tax revenue from the county.
Richland County released this statement today about the ruling:
Richland County wants to ensure residents we are responding responsibly to the ruling, as we do with other issues facing the County. We are pleased the Supreme Court affirmed that the flow of tax funds from the penny transportation tax will continue to be sent to Richland County.
County Council will hold a special called meeting 4 p.m. Friday in Council Chambers to discuss the ruling.
In advance of the Friday meeting, the County provides the following information:
· The transportation penny program is not suspended. Taxpayers’ dollars are still at work building and repairing roads in Richland County.
· The County is examining expenses that should be paid from the transportation penny program pursuant to the order.
· Richland County will work collaboratively with the S.C. Department of Revenue and the transportation contractor, the Program Development Team, to make the necessary changes to bring the program in line with the order.
Residents elected County Council to represent them and address their concerns. Therefore, it was important the County Administrator first made sure Council – not the media – was informed about the issue and that members had the opportunity to ask questions and receive information.
The County wants residents to understand any potential outcome of the ruling will not pose a negative impact on the County financially. Other projects, including the Richland Renaissance initiative, are proceeding as planned.