Two industrial sites added to Lexington County school aid plan

tflach@thestate.comNovember 3, 2013 

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  • Dividing the pie

    Lexington County schools will share revenue from county-developed industrial areas through a plan based on enrollment and population. The share each is due to receive starting in 2014:

    Lexington 1: 49 percent

    Lexington 2: 22 percent

    Lexington 3: 4 percent

    Lexington 4: 7 percent

    Lexington-Richland 5: 18 percent

    Note – Figures rounded off

    Source: Lexington County planning staff

Schools across Lexington County will gain from development of industrial hubs in Batesburg-Leesville and near Chapin.

County Council added the pair to the largest one near Cayce as county-developed commercial centers whose revenue supports classrooms.

Making sure all three sites play the same role is “covering all the bases,” Councilman Jim Kinard said.

School and municipal officials in the two communities endorse the arrangement. “It helps everybody,” Batesburg-Leesville Mayor James Wiszowaty said.

Schools are receiving most of the fees that new businesses pay in lieu of property taxes while communities gain revenue mainly from supplying water and sewer service to the sites.

Council members backed away from altering the allocation for schools, after it became clear that proposed changes left Lexington-Richland 5 a big winner at the expense of the other four districts.

Addition of the two industrial sites – a step taken last week – is consistent with a plan to share the wealth among schools, because taxpayers countywide are paying to build the centers.

Schools begin receiving payments next year estimated at $600,000, primarily from the Amazon distribution center near Cayce.

That amount is projected to grow to $2 million in a few years and increase as more companies open.

But the centers at Batesburg-Leesville and near Chapin won’t chip in much initially.

Only one firm – an industrial basin maker – is located in Batesburg-Leesville, a site on the western edge of the county that developers say isn’t attracting much interest because it’s remote and far from interstate highways.

The one adjoining Chapin won’t be ready for a few years as roads and sewers are installed. For now, it will remain outside the community of 1,500 on the north shore of Lake Murray at the insistence of county leaders.

Attracting firms to sites with municipal taxes and controls is more difficult, council members say.

“It turns businesses away,” County Council chairman Bill Banning said. “They don’t want another layer to deal with.”

Town leaders are free to try to take in the center “once we build it out,” he said.

There’s no push to get Batesburg-Leesville to detach its site from the town of 5,400 residents.

“If that threatens to kill a deal there, we might ask about it,” Banning said.

County leaders also set aside 5 percent of revenue coming from the three sites for development of new centers.

It’s a step that Kinard hopes will lessen the need for new taxes to open new areas designed for manufacturers and other operations that bring in many jobs.

“It lays the groundwork for building more without the need for higher taxes,” he said.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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