Dorchester District 2 is supporting a grassroots effort that encourages comprehensive changes to South Carolina's tax laws, becoming the first school district in the state to publicly endorse the group.

"It's an issue whose time has come," said school board Chairwoman Frances Townsend.

In the spring, the district's PTAs held an information rally at Ashley Ridge High School with Mike Fanning, who runs the nonprofit Reduce our Awful Tax Rates SC.

"We don't generally get involved beyond our own school system, but everything he said just made sense," said Townsend, who on Monday introduced a letter of endorsement encouraging "all citizens of South Carolina to lobby our legislators to support the comprehensive tax reform ideas of ROAR SC."

She said her hopes are "to start kind of a groundswell of school boards who support these tax changes so that we can get a proper tax system that will support our schools and will benefit our children. This would be a more dependable source of income for our schools, since we are based on the sales tax."

Comprehensive tax reform is an item on the October agenda for the state Board of Education, she said.

Fanning said ROAR SC ( has given more than 200 presentations in 22 months.

"We have focused not on talking to legislators and local officials but on meetings with groups," he said. ROAR SC is supported by chambers of commerce, civic groups and faith-based groups, but Dorchester 2 is "the first school district that passed anything to support us," Fanning said.

He said he delivers a "nonpartisan message of awareness.

"We are actually attempting to take the politics out of the issue of tax reform. We are trying to point everyone toward the big issue that's been looming over our state for three decades: the number of exemptions. We are literally taxing our state's residents at twice the rate needed to run the government and giving half the money to 213 special interest exemptions."

Fanning contends that the state's general fund budget is about $5 billion, but the state has about $4 billion in tax exemptions and loopholes. Among them, the annual tax-free weekend ($2.6 million exemption).

Fanning, 44, who lives in rural Fairfield County, is executive director of the Olde English Consortium, an educational collaborative to improve education, economic development and the quality of life in northeast South Carolina. He runs ROAR SC in his spare time and does not draw a salary.