Richland 1

Who pays for Richland 1 board election? Answer is near

dhinshaw@thestate.com February 18, 2014 

Richland County

— For the past eight months, Richland 1 has refused to repay the county more than $90,000 for a June school-board election.

Tuesday, County Council was poised to cover the debt by withholding the money from the school district’s allotment of property taxes this year.

Instead, the council agreed to hold off for two more weeks.

Chairman Norman Jackson said he’d gotten a call from his counterpart on the school board, Aaron Bishop, that the district was prepared to settle the matter.

At issue is whether residents of the school district, rather than the entire county, pay the $92,403.12 cost of the special election to fill a board vacancy.

Earlier Tuesday, schools spokeswoman Karen York said the district was willing to pay the bill, but wanted to understand why it was being asked to do so. Neighboring Richland 2 didn’t pay for a special election it held in 2008, she said.

Councilman Damon Jeter called the situation “frustrating” and said County Council is “tired of talking about it.”

The standard practice has been to bill local jurisdictions for the elections they hold, county officials said. Last year, those included the city of Columbia, Forest Acres and the Richland Library, said Howard Jackson, county elections director.

In the weeks before the June 2013 special election, the school board raised the issue of who should pay.

Ever since, county officials said, the matter has gone back and forth without a resolution.

“Now it’s come to a head,” Jackson said.

Added Jeter, a former school-board member: “We’ve always been supportive of the school district, and we will continue to be. But I just can’t for the life of me see why they don’t just pay for it.”

County attorney Brad Farrar said a 1986 state law is clear: “The cost of a special election shall be borne by the school district.”

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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