County considering A-Tax, H-Tax

WINNSBORO – New taxes and fees aimed at sprucing up Fairfield County’s tourism and business image received unanimous support at Monday night’s county council meeting.

Council members approved 5-0 the first reading of three draft ordinances which if approved, would institute a tourism development fee, a hospitality fee and a business registration fee.

Council members Bertha Goins and Mikel Trapp were absent for the vote. Two more readings are required before the fees take effect.

“If you don’t have an attractive town, if you don’t have an attractive community, it is hard to attract tourists,” County Administrator Jason Taylor said.

Tourism Development Fee

If enacted, the tourism development fee would add a three-cent tax on hotels, motels and lodging.

Fairfield County attorney Tommy Morgan said funds could be used for a variety of purposes, including promoting the arts, music, farmer’s markets, agro-business tours and construction of facilities used in tourism.

“Some parts of the state have used it for waterfront erosion [control],” he said. “They can use it in a lot of different ways.”

Asked later about the tourism development fee, Morgan said the county’s proposed fee is more accurately defined as a local accommodations tax.
“The Council may wish to change the title of the Ordinance to reference ‘accommodation tax’ instead of ‘tourism development fee’ in order to minimize any future confusion,” he said.

Hospitality Fee

The hospitality fee would add two cents on prepared meals and beverages in the county.

Funds would be spent on “improving services and facilities for tourists,” according to the ordinance. Examples include everything from advertising and promoting tourism to building and upgrading roads used by tourists or for tourism-related purposes.

Business Registration Fee

Fairfield County is also looking at a $15 flat fee that would be levied to businesses operating in the unincorporated areas of Fairfield County. Municipal businesses would not pay the fee. The fee is not designed to be a major revenue generator.

Rather, it’s designed to make it easier for the county to identify and regulate existing businesses, and also police illegal business activity, Morgan said.


Infrastructure tax update

The three fees are separate from county plans to pursue a local option sales tax to help fund infrastructure.

Unlike the three county fees, which only require two more council readings, the local option sales tax would require approval in a voter referendum.

Taylor said the proposed tax is still several months away.

“What we are looking at are targeted taxes to invest in the county as far as water and sewer services,” Jason Taylor said. “That could fund crucially needed, critically needed water and sewer infrastructure, which would support future growth.”

Fairfield County is primarily focused on the mega site off I-77, which lacks sufficient sewer capacity. The county was recently awarded a $2 million grant from the state to help, but several more millions are needed.

Taylor said the county isn’t looking at increasing property taxes.

“Without water and sewer we cannot have future growth,” Taylor said. “That’s just foundational infrastructure.”

At the Feb. 11 meeting, Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas proposed re-evaluating state tax breaks awarded to properties classified for agricultural use.

In South Carolina, agricultural real property is taxed at 4 percent of its fair market value. Non-agricultural property is taxed at 6 percent.

“I have ag land that I own and I’m paying next to nothing,” he said. “Everyone else who has less than five acres is paying a lot more taxes. I feel like every acre in Fairfield County needs to have an extra dollar in taxes on it.”

Taylor said Douglas’ idea has potential, but he also said it presents legal challenges that must first be ironed out.


  1. Kirk Culbreth says

    As a Wastewater Operator I understand the infrastructure tax and the need for sewer upgrade at the I77 Mega Site, but what I don’t understand is with these future upgrades why hasn’t any thought been given to upgrading the Jackson Creek Wastewater Plant,as well as some of the existing sewer infrastructure throughout the County and Town. Just saying….

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