Business Hit All Around
By Alex Saitta
March 12, 2018
I read the article of February 7 in the Pickens County Courier where the city of Pickens has proposed increasing city business license fees by 10 percent.
I recently looked at the city of Pickens’ financial audits of the past few years. One of the main challenges the city government has is its costs are rising, but natural revenue growth is non-existent or very low. Pickens isn’t Greenville or even Easley with a growing property or business base. In the face of persistent increases in employee costs and providing basic services, the city has two choices: either tighten the management of its budget and become more efficient or raise taxes and fees. For the most part, the city is doing the latter. This is hitting squarely on the jaw of local business. Since 2011 the city property tax rate has been raised from 51.9 mills to 77.3 mills. My understanding is the city is now making each business pay the base water fee, where those in one building could split it before.
I see why Heath Fields of Bivens Hardware said in the article, “I think the 10 percent increase [in business fees] is a big deal for a lot of Pickens’ small business.” You see, it is not only this 10 percent hike; businesses are getting hit all around by the city, plus the school board and county council.
The school board is on a spending spree, raising property taxes three times in a row now.
Despite being flush with cash inherited from the previous county council, the new council just quadrupled its debt, and is raising property taxes. By the way, last week the county proposed revamping fire services in the county, and paying for it by adding a 25 mill property tax to all property including your car, motorcycle, boat, RV, vacant land and businesses too. More evidence they know how to spend, not manage money.
Let’s take a step back and look at what our leaders are doing… The county council just flew to Europe in the name of boosting business development, while back at home they are raising tax rates on existing business (and everyone else). The school board just hired an economic development coordinator on one hand, but with the other hand they’re raising taxes on business. The city of Pickens has created groups to help businesses like the Pickens Revitalization Association, while it is raising taxes and fees on businesses. Higher government taxes and fees on the private sector harm new business formation, the expansion of existing businesses, and job growth. I’ve got a better idea. How about the county council, school board and the cities focus on better managing their budgets, keeping their costs and our tax rates down, and let the private sector and local business worry about economic development. They don’t need any more help from the government, because government’s version of help usually means more borrowing and spending, and businesses having to pay for it.