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Greenville County Council again rejects refunding road, telecom fees

Greenville County Square sign

File/Ryan Gilchrest/Staff

GREENVILLE — In the paraphrased words of Southern rock icons Creedence Clearwater Revival, "there’s a bad moon a-rising,” said Councilman Steve Shaw after Greenville County Council rejected another attempt to return money to residents following a state Supreme Court decision that ruled two fees invalid.

In a meeting Oct. 5, the council first rejected a plan to refund those who had paid an annual $14.95 telecommunications fee and $15 of the county’s road maintenance fee since 2017 after the state’s top court ruled in June against the county in a unanimous decision. One judge’s opinion stated local governments have used the fees as a way to avoid politically-fraught tax increases.

Councilman Stan Tzouvelekas motioned to recall that earlier decision to reconsider it Oct. 19.

“Please support giving this money back to the citizens,” Tzouvelekas said.

Earlier in the day, Shaw sent an email to council members and attempted to get them to change their mind on issuing fee refunds.

Shaw, an attorney, said it didn’t matter whether the council thought the fees were well-intentioned or not, the court was the arbiter.

“From all of the wits I have, I am convinced that, should we fail to give, at least, this pathway to a refund, that we are going to get our asses handed to us (and the county treasury) by highly motivated and well-represented plaintiffs who will take this right back all the way to the Supreme Court,” Shaw wrote.

Without much discussion, the council voted 7-5 against offering the refund. Councilmembers Shaw, Tzouvelekas, Mike Barnes, Joe Dill and Chairman Willis Meadows voted to reconsider the refund program. Three of those members — Barnes, Dill and Meadows — were initially plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the county over the vote to charge the new fees in 2017.

Shaw said the county could allow residents who want a refund to request it through an online portal. Afterward, he said it was arrogant of the council not to make a refund an option for those who were charged the invalid fees.

“I don’t see how it’s going to be good that we thumb our nose at the taxpayers,” he said. “We are thumbing our nose at the Supreme Court who just flat-out told us that was wrong.”

In rejecting the refunds, councilmembers have said their constituents had not asked for money back. They felt the best use for the money collected from the fees was to go toward county roads and telecommunications upgrades to the county emergency management system.

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