No change expected in Lexington County school aid plan

tflach@thestate.comSeptember 25, 2013 

Lexington County leaders are sticking with their original allocation of industrial fees to schools instead of revising it on the eve of the first distribution.

“It seems likely to stay as is,” County Councilman Jim Kinard said. “Nothing (a change) is imminent.”

Council members are letting the proposed change die by inaction, again letting it languish Tuesday.

The decision comes after county leaders learned that four of five school districts would lose under a proposed revision. All the gain would go to Lexington-Richland 5, home to utility power plants and the Harbison retail area.

Schools will receive the bulk of fees paid by firms given property tax breaks to locate in county-developed industrial sites.

Classrooms are expected to receive $600,000 by next spring, mainly from the Amazon distribution center and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. facilities.

The aid is expected to rise to $2 million in a few years increasing further as more companies settle in industrial areas near Cayce and in Batesburg-Leesville as well as one planned in Chapin.

Some council members are having second thoughts about a plan adopted in 2007 to divide the fees among schools as a way to spread the wealth, since taxpayers countywide paid to build the industrial areas.

The allocation to schools is based on a combination of population and enrollment.

Some of the nine council members say reliance on population counts is outdated amid steady growth bringing in newcomers annually.

Their goal is to substitute each school district’s share of countywide assessed value, saying that is an up-to-date measure of growth.

Modifying it that way also would provide a bit of tax relief for businesses that pay taxes instead of fees.

Those commercial operations bear the brunt of rising taxes for school operations after the Legislature limited residential increases in a tax overhaul.

Council members who favor the change aren’t giving up.

“We aren’t completely removing it from our radar,” Councilman Todd Cullum said. “It’s wait and see.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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