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Columbia Business Monthly

S.C. Cities and Towns Tackle Challenges in 2018

Jan 02, 2018 01:17PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Reba Hull Campbell
Deputy Executive Director, Municipal Association of SC

South Carolina’s 271 cities and towns range in size from Columbia at more than 129,000 to Smyrna at just under 50. Each is significant in its own way to the people who call these communities home and the businesses that choose to locate in them.

It’s this uniqueness of our state’s cities and towns that is one of the strong draws for businesses as they look to locate and expand in South Carolina. While one business may be seeking an industrial park that’s shovel-ready with city water and sewer already on site, another may be looking for a storefront in a rural downtown. Common among all businesses looking to locate or expand in South Carolina cities is the need for business-friendly practices, a reasonable and fair tax structure, and safe streets and neighborhoods.

As the elected leaders in our cities and towns evaluate their options for making their communities business friendly, safe, and welcoming, they look at how changes in state law may provide new opportunities. Each year, the Municipal Association engages hundreds of municipal officials to identify major challenges facing their cities and towns around the state, and proposes changes in state law that could help meet those challenges.

The priorities for meeting these challenges in 2018 are included in the Municipal Association’s advocacy initiatives:
Encourage business growth and development
For businesses, time is money. Implementing standardized business licensing practices saves businesses time and supports local economic growth.

Action Item
Standardize business license tax collection processes across the state.

Provide quality services
Residents and businesses expect a positive quality of life and economic prosperity in their hometowns.  To achieve this, dependable and consistent revenue sources are necessary to support the efficient and effective delivery of municipal services.

Action Items
Update the formula for the Local Government Fund to ensure a reliable revenue source for cities and towns.
Increase flexibility for municipalities to raise revenue to support specific capital projects.
Allow cities to annex certain enclaves by ordinance.
Increase flexibility for municipalities to more effectively use local hospitality/accommodations tax and Victims Assistance funds.

Increase funding for law enforcement
Law enforcement agencies face the challenge of recruiting, hiring, and training highly qualified officers. Increased funding for training and resources will result in safer streets and communities.

Action Items
Increase reliable funding to offer more training opportunities for law enforcement officers.
Increase funding for body worn cameras.
Equip cities and towns with the tools to meet law enforcement challenges created by the opioid epidemic.

Expand funding sources for infrastructure
Long-term management of infrastructure extends beyond building roads, fixing potholes, and cleaning drainage ditches. Cities and towns need resources and flexibility to prioritize and address local infrastructure challenges.

Action Items
Increase municipal representation on County Transportation Committees.
Increase funding for drainage projects to mitigate flood-prone areas.
Identify funding sources for relocating municipally owned utilities forced to move due to road and bridge construction.

Reduce blight
Dilapidated structures pose a public safety threat in municipalities of all sizes. Additional tools to clear blight will ensure the safety of residents and visitors and spur economic development opportunities for business owners.

Action Item
Establish options to recover public funds spent to demolish or clean blighted property.

The Municipal Association and its 271 cities and towns will work closely with members of the General Assembly and partner organizations to address the priorities laid out in the 2018 advocacy initiatives.