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Article on tax rates in Cola, Chas, Gville

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Columbia’s property taxes are twice Charleston’s

By John Temple Ligon

Locally published Carolina Living , a magazine targeted to entice retirees to move to the Carolinas, discloses in its current issue the comparative costs of living in selected cities. On the whole, Carolina Living takes a positive market approach, describing all the advantages in moving to our area. From the mountains to the sea, all regions of the two Carolinas get equal and high promotion. But in a chart comparing property taxes, some glaring differences appear.

Under the heading Annual Property Taxes in Selected SC Cities (2004) , Carolina Living notes an almost two–to–one ratio between the property taxes for a $200,000 home in Columbia compared to the same property in Charleston. In Columbia, a $200,000 home was taxed last year for $3,358, while in Charleston the same house paid $1,619 in property taxes.

The Greenville taxes for the same $200,000 home were $2,399, almost $1,000 less than Columbia’s. Charlotte taxes, by the way, were also $1,000 less than Columbia’s.

Charleston taxes are half what we pay in Columbia. Why? How?

Columbia gets maybe 500,000 visitors a year, while Charleston attracts over 5,000,000, and that means ten times the take in sales taxes and hospitality taxes. The portion of the visitors’ taxes dedicated to property tax reduction helps the local property owners.

The overall cost–of– living for Charleston is a bit more than Columbia’s. But the value of a house in Charleston is far higher than its Columbia counterpart. Charleston can afford a lower millage because the appraised values are so much higher.

Greenville is one–third less the property tax we pay in Columbia. Since Greenville is not a tourist town, it’s a good guess the consolidated single school district in Greenville has something to do with it.

Compare Columbia growth rates with those of Charleston, Greenville, and Charlotte. Regardless of the explanations, high home property taxes act as a high barrier to prospective newcomers.

A better explanation of why Columbia is taxed twice what Charleston pays and 50% more than Greenville and Charlotte has to be made at Columbia City Council, Richland County Council, and Richland School District One. If they can’t explain the tax differences, maybe a new generation of elected officials can.

^^ The explanation is simple. Charleston has a local option sales tax (LOST) and Richland does not. Also, Charleston has 10 times the tourism, which generates still more sales tax credits against property taxes. Also helping out is the that Chas. does not have as much government owned (and thus tax exempt) property in it's borders. All the Federal, and state buildings including the vast USC campus are all tax exempt, with the burden shifted to the property that does pay taxes.

Greenville likewise has little tax-exempt property. Cola and Gville millage rates

are within 10% of each other (Cola is the higher).

Now that Richland has instituted the sales tax, it should eventually close the gap for the most part.

Charleston passed the LOST in the early '90s, and was the first major county to do so. It passed in large measure to the strong advocacy of Mayor Joe Riley. It only passed by like 60 votes. If only Mayor Bob had the guts to do the same thing, it might would have passed a lot sooner.

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I would like to see St. Andrews become an incorporated area (for no imparticular reason) but since Columbia has annexed about half of it that may be hard to do. I am aware however that this would never happen. St. Andrews is about 23-25,000 strong according to the 2000 census, it has loss population I guess everyone is moving to Lexinton?

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St Andrews is an older suburb. The "Irmo" of its day. The area there is not bad at all, but I think its loosing population to Irmo and the new parts of town. I think that if they could get rid of those old and unnattractive strip malls and older buildings along Broad River Rd, that it would help improve the appearance of the area and maybe encourage people to move back in. I rather like St Andrews myself and I'd rather live there than Irmo, thats for sure.

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I don't think his figures are right. I live in the city and my property taxes were right at $1300 for a house assessed at $117K. That would work out to less than $2500 for a 200K house.

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That's funny I remember back in the 80's when those stripmalls were being built off of Broad River Rd. & Bush River Rd. they were hot! That's when Target was called Richway, which then became Gold Circle. Burlington Coat Factory was located there and before it was Burlington Coat Factory it was Kroger. Food Lion was across the road and before it changed it's name it was Foodtown this was all of of Bush River Rd. though. Now that area is just a shell of itself.

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Interesting. I wonder if we will see the cities and towns in Richland annex more in the next few years?

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Undoubtedly yes, Columbia is hiring an annexation coordinator and Forest Acres has always been aggressive in annexation. Forest Acres may be able to eliminate property taxes in 3-4 years. Other towns and cities have done so or at least on owner occupied homes.

With the cost of city taxes decreased often by 50% or more, and the level of services remaining the same, it only stands to reason that annexation is more acceptable to suburbanites. Florence, Sumter, Charleston, North Charleston have all annexed substantially more since instituting a sales tax. I'm sure other cities and towns have as well.

I would like to see St. Andrews become an incorporated area (for no imparticular reason) but since Columbia has annexed about half of it that may be hard to do. I am aware however that this would never happen. St. Andrews is about 23-25,000 strong according to the 2000 census, it has loss population I guess everyone is moving to Lexinton?

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St. Andrews tried to incorporate in the late '70s or early '80s, but it either never made it to the ballot or was defeated. I seem to remember that it was defeated. I know Columbia tried to undermine it by annexing some parcels while the incorporation process was underway. In order to incorporate the proposed area must either be 5 miles from another incorporated city or town, or it must have a population of 15,000 or greater. St. Andrews would therefore need an area of 15,000 population, a good chunk of St. Andrews. The only exception is if the area sought annexation and was denied. Then an area could incorporate with less than 15,000.

There was a recent effort to incorporate the Northeast, but I've heard little about it. Usually sentiment for incorporation has to be pretty strong for it to succeed.

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I do remember something about NE trying to inc itself about a year or two ago b/c they feared that they would be next to be swallowed up by Columbia. I wonder what did ever happen to that?

I had no idea that St. Andrews actually did try to inc itself? That's interesting. Back in the 70's (76-80) though I was back in Jersey.

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I still favor Columbia annexing all of Richland County, except the towns that already exist. There are efficiencies of scale and this would be one.

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I think the idea is at least worth a look. Louisville, Ky is similar in size and demographics to Columbia, and they pulled off a city/county merger a couple of years ago. On paper it looks good; Louisville catapulted to be the 16th largest city in the country, they were governed by one mayor, one council, one budget, one police force, etc, etc. Louisville, like Cola, was seeing an influx of reinvestment downtown, but overall development and job creation kept creeping outward. They felt annexation would keep them from becoming another St. Louis, whose downtown is merely a shell of its former self, or like Atlanta, which simply bloated and sprawled. Since the merger, Louisville has seen many gains in efficiency, and suddenly they have more bargaining power to prospective employers, being the 16th largest city in the US and all.

It's more food for thought than anything else; I've only lived in Columbia for about 6 months, and I see a lot of potential. However, I also see them stepping into the same pitfalls that many larger cities got caught up in 20-30 years ago, and I think there is enough evidence out there to make some smarter, more innovative development and governmental decisions.

BTW, a good page documenting the Louisville/Jerrferson County merger is here if anyone is interested in more info:

http://www.brook.edu/dybdocroot/es/urban/l...le/abstract.htm

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Welcome to the forum lastweek!

I wonder if a study has been done to compare thet progess of all cities that have merged the city and county? It would be interesting I think.

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Welcome to the forum lastweek!

I wonder if a study has been done to compare thet progess of all cities that have merged the city and county? It would be interesting I think.

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Thanks for the welcome!

I don't think the city/county merger happens too often. I think before Louisville the last city to pull off the stunt was Indianapolis back in the 70s. However, I know Pittsburgh is considering such a merger after seeing the success that Louisville had.

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Welcome to the Forum lastweek. Below are two posts I had under a different thread in the Southern USA forum.

Mergers by Referendum:

Baton-Rouge-East Baton Rouge Parish LA - 1947

Hampton-Elizabeth City County VA - 1952

Nashville-Davidson TN -1962 (defeated in 1958)

Virginia Beach-Princess Anne County VA - 1962

South Norflok-Norfolk County VA - 1962

Jacksonville-Duval County FL - 1967

Juneau-Greater Juneau Borough Alaska - 1969

Carson City-Ormsby County NV - 1969

Columbus-Muscogee County GA - 1970 (defeated in 1962)

Sitka-Sitka Borough Alaska - 1971

Mergers by Legislative Action -

New Orleans-Orleans Parish LA - 1805

Boston-Suffolf County MA - 1821

Philadelphia - Philadelphia County PA - 1854

San Francisco - San Francisco County CA - 1856

New York-New York County NY - 1874

New York and Brooklyn-Queens and Richmond counties NY - 1898

Honolulu-Honolulu County HA - 1907

Indianapolis-Marion County IN - 1969

Areas that rejected consolidation: (I only listed the Southern cities from the report)

Macon - Bibb County GA - 1933,1960

Miami-Dade County FL - 1948, 1953

Knoxville-Knox County - 1959

Newport News-Harwick County-Elizabeth City County VA - 1950**

Durham-Durham County - 1961

Richmond-Henrico County VA - 1961

Memphis-Shelby County TN - 1962, 1971

Chattanooga-Hamilton County TN - 1964,1970

Tampa-Hillsborough County FL - 1967,1970

Athens-Clarke County GA - 1969**

Charlotte-Mecklenburg County NC - 1971

Tallahassee-Leon County FL - 1971

Pensacola-Escambia County FL - 1970

** Remember this is a 1972 report, I know Athens-Clarke has consolidated since then. I think Newport News may have as well.

I know Charleston-Charleston County SC rejected consolidation in 1974 as well.

Lots of TN, GA and FL representation.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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Charlotte/Mecklenburg isnt consilidated. Well, I think that there is more to it than meets the eye. The city and county might be one govt, but the city still hasn't annex all the land. They have some sort of arrangement with the other municipalities there that defines their annexation limits. Maybe one of our Charlotte forumers can enlighten us on that? :)

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Charlotte/Mecklenburg isnt consilidated. Well, I think that there is more to it than meets the eye. The city and county might be one govt, but the city still hasn't annex all the land. They have some sort of arrangement with the other municipalities there that defines their annexation limits. Maybe one of our Charlotte forumers can enlighten us on that? :)

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Charlotte was listed as rejecting consolidation in my post. Charlotte has done what a growing number of cities and counties have done. They have FUNCTIONALLY consolidated certain departments, but not the governments themselves. The Charlotte Police and Mecklenburg Sheriff's department are consolidated and I think most other major departments/function of government are as well. However, the two have not truly consolidated as their is a governing body for each and their are still unincorporated areas of Mecklenburg County (although steadily shrinking). The cities within Meck. County have an agreement amongst themselves on which city can annex each section of the county. Once the population density of an unicorporated area is met (as required by state law), that area is annexed to the city that has annexation rights per the agreement.

The idea with this setup is to achieve cost efficiencies that consolidation provides, without having the politically difficult task of getting consolidation approved. It also allows the number of elected officials to remain the same.

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I think the idea is at least worth a look.  Louisville, Ky is similar in size and demographics to Columbia, and they pulled off a city/county merger a couple of years ago.  On paper it looks good; Louisville catapulted to be the 16th largest city in the country, they were governed by one mayor, one council, one budget, one police force, etc, etc.  Louisville, like Cola, was seeing an influx of reinvestment downtown, but overall development and job creation kept creeping outward.  They felt annexation would keep them from becoming another St. Louis, whose downtown is merely a shell of its former self, or like Atlanta, which simply bloated and sprawled.  Since the merger, Louisville has seen many gains in efficiency, and suddenly they have more bargaining power to prospective employers, being the 16th largest city in the US and all. 

It's more food for thought than anything else; I've only lived in Columbia for about 6 months, and I see a lot of potential.  However, I also see them stepping into the same pitfalls that many larger cities got caught up in 20-30 years ago, and I think there is enough evidence out there to make some smarter, more innovative development and governmental decisions.

BTW, a good page documenting the Louisville/Jerrferson County merger is here if anyone is interested in more info:

http://www.brook.edu/dybdocroot/es/urban/l...le/abstract.htm

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Umm, guy, Louisville has always been a MUCH bigger and more important city than Columbia. They are no where near close as you think. Comparing Columbia to Louisville is like comparing Louisville to Atlanta...it doesn't add up. A better example for you to compare yourselves (population wise and culturally) to would be Lexington, KY, who merged in the 60's. They are more in line with Columbia as being nice college towns, but with a sprawly atmosphere and lack of density.

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I'm happy to grant you the population differences (Louisville proper was about 250,000 in the 2000 census, while Cola was only 120,000), but the demographics of the population of each are similar. I'm not trying to spilt hairs here, but the motivations behind Louisville consolidating were in line with a lot of the issues that Columbia has identified as important. Lexington's demographics and motivaitons are much different than Columbia's, and the comparison just isn't as relevant.

I've spent a good amount of time in Louisville and I think it's a nice town.

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welcome to the forum louisvillecard04!

That is an itneresting perspective. I have never been to Louisville, but to say that it is more important than Columbia just doesn't add up. Size doesn't always equal importance. I'm sure it is imporant to its region, but I can tell you it has virtually no relevence here in Columbia, as I am sure Columbia has little relevance in Louisville.

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welcome to the forum louisvillecard04!

That is an itneresting perspective. I have never been to Louisville, but to say that it is more important than Columbia just doesn't add up. Size doesn't always equal importance. I'm sure it is imporant to its region, but I can tell you it has virtually no relevence here in Columbia, as I am sure Columbia has  little relevance in Louisville.

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never said it wasnt as important...its just nowhere near as big. True, Louisville's city pop was only 260k at the last census...but that is in a 61 sq mi area. I am guessing Columbia doesnt even have that in 200 sq. miles. Louisville's Urban area alone is nearly 50% bigger than Columbia's METRO. A metro in the 1-1.5 million range is really not comprable to a college town like Columbia, SC. With that said, Columbia is a nice town where its warm, friendly, and loaded with hot women.

But I dont sit and try to compare Louisville with STL or ATL etc. These cities have metros over twice as big as Louisville. In the same way, Louisvilles metro is well over twice as big as Columbias. When I went to Columbia, it reminded me of Lexington to a T. But it is surely no Louisville, which was the 12th biggest city in the early 20th century and has merged and rightfully reclaimed its status as a top 40 city. Columbia isnt at that level, so its like comparing apples and oranges. Columbia seems like a sprawly, well educated college town. Louisville is old, industrial, urban, and has more of a national name and more shopping, business, ethnic neighborhoods, retsuarants, etc. Its more comprable to Birmingham, Nashville, Jacksonville, or aound you, The Raleigh-Durham area (but not quite as high growth).

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Actually you did say that is wasn't as important. I apologize for insulting your town by comparing it to lowly Columbia, I certainly didn't mean any harm and am actually quite impressed by how Louisville has pulled off the merger.

You guys do have the market cornered in baseball bats :D

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never said it wasnt as important...its just nowhere near as big.  True, Louisville's city pop was only 260k at the last census...but that is in a 61 sq mi area.  I am guessing Columbia doesnt even have that in 200 sq. miles.  Louisville's Urban area alone is nearly 50% bigger than Columbia's METRO.  A metro in the 1-1.5 million range is really not comprable to a college town like Columbia, SC.  With that said, Columbia is a nice town where its warm, friendly, and loaded with hot women. 

But I dont sit and try to compare Louisville with STL or ATL etc.  These cities have metros over twice as big as Louisville.  In the same way, Louisvilles metro is well over twice as big as Columbias.  When I went to Columbia, it reminded me of Lexington to a T.  But it is surely no Louisville, which was the 12th biggest city in the early 20th century and has merged and rightfully reclaimed its status as a top 40 city.  Columbia isnt at that level, so its like comparing apples and oranges.  Columbia seems like a sprawly, well educated college town.  Louisville is old, industrial, urban, and has more of a national name and more shopping, business, ethnic neighborhoods, retsuarants, etc.  Its more comprable to Birmingham, Nashville, Jacksonville, or aound you, The Raleigh-Durham area (but not quite as high growth).

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Actually Columbia is significantly larger than Lexington and our metro is over 700K. Louisville is larger, but it's not the huge difference you make it out to be. Columbia is a little ove 100 square miles, but 84 of its square miles are Fort Jackson, so most of the city's population is in about 30 square miles. In 200 square miles surrounding the central city the population is about 1/2 million. FYI.

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42 31140 Louisville, KY-IN MSA 1,161,975 1,182,832 1.79

Metro Louisville is significantly larger than metro Columbia, but it is not double the size. Metro Columbia is also growing at about double the rate.

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