Lowcountry officials concerned with proposed business license bill

SOUTH CAROLINA (WTOC) - Government officials across South Carolina are opposing a recently proposed house bill that would standardize business license practices across the state.

But leaders in the Lowcountry are concerned that this new bill will also jeopardize their pockets.

Between all of the towns and cities here in the Lowcountry, we are looking at a potential loss of a few million dollars. But it's not because of the standardized process, but because of other provisions in the bill

This started a few years ago to make things easier for businesses to process their permits in their applications and their licensing fees. Right now, businesses apply for licenses in the town where they're located but this new bill will send everything through the Secretary of State.

"All the fee collection will go through the Secretary of State, so they're taking the collection power out of the hands of the municipalities. They have a system in the bill of giving tax breaks to companies that do a portion of their business outside of the municipality," said Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams.

But for cities like Beaufort - that have close to 3,000 businesses - that tax break means losing big bucks.

"For Beaufort, we're estimating about a $1.1 million loss of business license revenues. The business license revenues make up about 24 to 25 percent of our general operational budget. A large component of that goes towards our fire department, our police department and our public works department," said Beaufort's Finance Director, Kathy Todd.

In Hardeeville, officials are estimating a loss of about $250,000. A lot of the city and towns are worried that this exemption will put the burden on residents.

For example, in Hardeeville, the mayor says they may have to raise the millage rate to compensate for that loss.

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