Legislators Plan Property Tax Relief - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

01/12/06

Legislators Plan Property Tax Relief

Are you happy with your property taxes? Not many people are. But if you live in the Palmetto State, you might be in for a break now that the South Carolina legislature is back in session. They're talking about it.

How are legislators planning to give property owners that relief depends to whom you talk to. There are several suggestions out there, but one thing is for sure: legislators agree there needs to be relief, and that's just what many Low Country property owners want to hear.

Property taxes are skyrocketing throughout Beaufort County, and many homeowners like Dr. Charles Aimar are being forced to make some tough decisions.

"Our property has been in our family for eight generations and we have no intention of moving the property out of the family," said Aimar. "I'd like to pass it onto my son and he'd like to have it, but he can't afford the taxes."

In the 1950s, when Aimar and his wife built their home in the Point in Beaufort's historic district, they built something they could afford. But they never imagined their taxes would escalate to this point.

"It's the most frustrating thing I've ever come into contact with," said Aimar. "There's no relief."

Legislators are now back in session, trying to help come up with that relief. As it stands right now, the House and the Senate each have a tax relief plan on the table, but they each have different approaches.

"The House plan focuses on totally eliminating property tax on homes, cities, counties, school districts, everything," said Rep. Bobby Harrell (R-Dist. 114), speaker of the South Carolina House.

The Senate's plan focuses on the school operating part of the tax. However, both the House and Senate are contemplating adding a two-cent sales tax to replace the lost property revenue.

Not all the legislators agree that's the answer. "It looks like the average South Carolinian will pay more and the business community would pay more, and right now we've got the third-highest employment rate in the whole country," said Rep. Thayer Rivers (D-Dist. 122). "So coming up with a tax reform package that will make us less attractive to businesses doesn't impress me."

Both the House and the Senate are looking at abolishing the tax placed on groceries to help those who don't own property.

There is a lot of pressure on legislatures to get this tax relief bill created soon, especially since it's an election year for the governor and the House of Representatives.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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