I thank state Rep. Eddy Southard for his letter to the editor of June 14, as it provides two great questions to be answered.
The first question is why my hand was forced to include a millage increase in next year’s budget, and the answer comes from none other than the state Legislature.
Over the past seven years, the state has failed to fully fund the Local Government Fund, even though the state is statutorily required to do so. This means that for seven years, Berkeley County government and residents have had to make up the state’s shortfall in funding to cover state-mandated services.
For Berkeley County, the seven-year shortfall totals almost $11 million, with last year’s shortfall alone being nearly $3 million. Estimates for this year are that the state will again mandate that the county perform a significant number of services but will again short us $3 million to cover such services. Estimates for the proposed millage increase would net slightly more than $3 million. Thus, the county will be able to pay for the unfunded state mandates.
While I commend Rep. Southard for his fight to correct the problem the state has created for local governments, the reality is the state appears to have ignored its complete obligations to counties and municipalities for at least one more year.
The second question posed refers to the likelihood of Volvo’s deal affecting the financial solvency of our state and its well-respected AAA credit rating. Moody’s, one of the Big Three credit rating agencies, released a white paper on May 14th on South Carolina’s and Berkeley County’s positive forecast from the Volvo deal. They stated that Volvo’s “announcement is credit positive for the state, Berkeley County and other local governments in the region where the factory will add 2,000 new jobs and contribute $4.8 billion in economic output per year.”
Moody’s further highlighted Berkeley County’s modest growth from tax-base expansion over the past few years and stressed that the new activity around Volvo “will immediately benefit sales taxes” with property tax effects being at least three years out.
Lastly, Moody’s also stressed the additional benefit for Berkeley County being the millions in impact fees and the millions in annual operating revenue starting in 2018 from providing water and sewer service to the Volvo factory.
I look forward to providing even more information about the county’s future investment in the project as it becomes available, since the county’s future investment is completely based on the amount of money Volvo invests and the number of jobs Volvo creates.
Berkeley County Supervisor