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Aiken City Council repeals and refunds road fee following SC Supreme Court ruling

Ed Girardeau, Aiken City Council

Aiken City Council member Ed Girardeau listens to public comments Monday night. (Colin Demarest/Staff)

The Aiken City Council on Monday night rescinded the city’s road maintenance fee, nearly two months after the S.C. Supreme Court ruled a similar charge in the Upstate violated state law.

Council’s final vote to nix the $20 fee, instituted in 2017, was unanimous. The repeal includes a refund of all payments “received for motor vehicles with tag expirations from July 2021 and forward,” city documents show. The logistics, though, are being ironed out.

The S.C. Supreme Court on June 30 found two fees enacted by the Greenville County Council – one for road maintenance and one for communications upgrades – were illegal. The two were de facto taxes, the court decided, and were not approved by the Legislature.

“State law prohibits local government from imposing taxes unless they are value-based property taxes or are specifically authorized by the General Assembly,” wrote Justice John Cannon Few. “Neither is true for these two ordinances. Therefore, the ordinances are invalid.”

Other justices concurred.

Aiken’s road maintenance fee mirrored Greenville County’s; City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh previously described the circumstance as being “in the same boat.” Bedenbaugh in early August said ridding of the fee would be the “prudent thing to do.”

Aiken’s fee was projected to reap some $588,000 in fiscal years 2021-22, equivalent to 3.2 mills in the local budget, documents show. Without the charge, a new source of funding for paving, patching and sidewalk construction will need to be tapped.

“We’re still looking at options, but we believe we’ll have something next month for council to consider, should we want to continue a program to maintain existing city roads and bridges, repair said roads and bridges, and construct roads and bridges and sidewalks,” Bedenbaugh said Monday night.

The road maintenance fund currently stands at more than $1 million.


Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department, its NNSA, and government and politics, in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin.

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