At its regular Monday night meeting, Clinton City Council voted to sign a petition joining other cities requesting that the governor vote against what is being called the South Carolina Business License Tax Reform Act.
Mayor Bob McLean said that, as he understood, every mayor was sent a copy of the petition because if it were to pass, the contested House Bill 4431 being discussed in Columbia “would be devastating” financially to Clinton and every other city in the state.
According to Clinton’s finance officer Renee Morrow, if the bill passed and was signed into law by Governor McMaster, it would decrease Clinton’s revenue stream by about 15 percent, or about $947,000.
“It would have a significant impact on our city,” Morrow told council.
Morrow said the problems with the bill are numerous but, in particular, it benefits those companies which are not local yet do business inside Clinton.
“The bill they are introducing would complicate the process and cities would have to require much more financial information form these businesses,” Morrow said. “The bill allows businesses outside the city to receive the most benefits, and businesses inside the city limits do not get deduction or business license cap.”
Morrow said some cities have already done a standardization system for their business license practice, but the system in legislation right now would cut important revenues for most of the cities in South Carolina.
City Manager Bill Ed Cannon said it appears as a way for the state to gather some of the revenue which has been going to the cities.
Council unanimously approved the request to have the City of Clinton added to the petition.
“The big thing that happens is that the business license income is part of the general fund,” Cannon said Tuesday. “The thing that is upsetting is the fact that businesses outside the city which come into the city to work are exempt from the first $75,000 of their earnings. I think the organization which should try to standardize the business license for South Carolina should be the municipal association instead of going to another state agency.”
Council also heard from Police Chief Sonny Ledda that since 2018 crime in the City of Clinton had decreased 12.25 percent in 2019, with the exception of slight increases in vandalism and arson.
Cases of theft had decreased in 2019 from 480 to 443, assaults had decreased from 479 cases to 410 cases and drug arrests had decreased from 395 to 302.
Alcohol-related arrests were down by 19 percent from 114 in 2018 to 92 in 2019. Suspected arson cases went up from 2 in 2018 to 5 in 2019, and vandalism cases increased from 113 to 116. There were no homicides within Clinton either year.
Council also learned that Cannon was planning to open recreation complex bids Tuesday morning. Clinton has expected the recreation complex to cost about $1.4 million, and Tuesday afternoon Cannon said the lowest bid came in at $1,644,391.78, and the next lowest bid was $20,000 higher.
“Of the eight bids all were in the range and that tells me they are looking at the same plans,” Cannon said. “They will be sent to the engineer for evaluation and they will check the contractor out,” Cannon said.
As long as the engineer approves of the contractors’ details, the city staff will make its recommendation to council at the next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3.
Council also gave approval to assistant city manager Thomas Higgs to look into the cost of a connectivity study. The study would serve as a master plan for sidewalks and paths allowing pedestrians and bicycles to navigate the city more safely.