Drainage, funding for police body cameras, streamlining business license applications and restructuring the formula for local government funding are the big issues the leaders of South Carolina’s cities and towns want the legislature to address in its upcoming session.
The Municipal Association of South Carolina, which represents the interests of 271 cities and towns statewide, has released its advocacy initiatives for the 2018 legislative session.
The priorities come from discussions with MASC members and city and town leaders.
“All of them are equally important, but in different ways to different cities,” said MASC Deputy Executive Director Reba Campbell.
One of the consistent issues town and city leaders requested help for is drainage. Campbell said every municipality statewide has some sort of problem with water runoff control on roads, sidewalks, and vacant property.
“It’s common from the largest to the smallest cities,” she said. “It’s a much more complex issue than the average person may think.”
Another issue cities and towns would like addressed is the way business licenses are issued. Campbell said they’ve been working on streamlining the application process for about five years. She said some cities use a standardized model for business licenses, but they vary from city to city and that can be a problem for businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions such as landscapers and contractors.
“If you work in 12 different municipalities, right now you’re having to submit 12 different sets of paperwork using 12 different tax classes,” Campbell said.
The MASC also would like legislators to update the formula for the Local Government Fund, which provides money to cities and towns from the state budget. Since the recession, Campbell said the current funding formula has not been adhered to and it’s not been fully funded.
“So it’s a very important revenue source, especially for the smaller towns that their budgets can’t handle having fluctuations in something like this,” Campbell said.
Campbell said they would like legislators to change the formula so it’s not based on the previous year’s state revenue. She said they would like “a stable and reliable source of funds that can be distributed every year.”
“There are a lot of different things on the table right now,” she said, and they’re working with legislators on a long-term solution.
Another issue important to cities and towns is the expense related to police body cameras, which was mandated by state law. Campbell says most of the cost is not in the purchase of the equipment, but in the storage of the recorded video.
“What we’re seeking this year is additional funding so that every law enforcement agency in the state is allocated adequate funding both for purchase of cameras, replacement of cameras and most important, data storage,” she said.
Increasing funding for infrastructure and reducing blight are other issues on the priorities list.