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Richland County Tax Dispute: A $16 million error?

October 16, 2009

SCHotline Staff Report

Richland County Tax Dispute: A $16 million error?

Richland County School District 2 and Richland County Council are in a dispute with County Auditor Paul Brawley about the methodology of tax bills, and the money involved equals approximately $16,000,000 over the next 5 years.

Richland 2 contends, and the Council by its vote on October 6th agrees, that the Auditor’s methodology is contrary to law and public policy, and that the errant procedures shifts money away from Richland District 2. This failure to properly follow the law has the effect of taking the tax authority away from County Council and giving it to the Auditor.

Richland 2 discovered the alleged errors after examining the growth numbers calculated by the Auditor, which seemed suspicious in light of the numbers he projected for Richland School District One (where his wife formerly served on the School Board). Richland Two obtained the volunteer services of Johnnette Connelley, the former Dorchester County Auditor who worked with the South Carolina Association of Treasurers, Auditors and Tax Collectors to train Auditors in making rollback calculations.  Mrs. Connelley determined that Brawley erred in using only 41% of the growth in vehicle assessed value in his rollback calculation instead of the 100% which is provided for by statute.  Mrs. Connelley, who developed the worksheet used by county auditors across the state for calculating rollback millage, reviewed her calculations and the auditor’s calculations in a two hour, face to face meeting with Auditor Brawley on September 9, 2009.

The SC Department of Revenue has written that 100% of the vehicle growth should have been included in the calculation.  On three separate occasions Richland Two staff met face to face with the auditor in an attempt to resolve this disagreement.  Our sources further inform us that Brawley also met with the experts on the issue at the SC Department of Revenue – but despite their admonitions refused to correct his suspected error.  The District, County Council and Brawley have all requested opinions from the SC Attorney General.  We are posting the documents so you can decide the issue for yourself.

http://www.forrrestmaster.com/schotline/Richland%20Two%20Responds%20to%20Auditor’s%20Request%20for%20AG’s%20opinion.doc

http://www.forrrestmaster.com/schotline/Auditors%20Error%20with%20Richland%202%20Millage.pdf

http://www.forrrestmaster.com/schotline/6_1_320a.pdf

http://www.forrrestmaster.com/schotline/277_S_C__421.pdf

http://www.forrrestmaster.com/schotline/12_37_251.pdf

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Donald permalink
    October 16, 2009 7:02 AM

    This incredible…surely Brawly knows better than this?

    Thank goodness Council is watching this…and our tax dollars.

  2. ColaGuy permalink
    October 16, 2009 7:04 AM

    People have no idea how sloppy the tax process is. I live in Lexington County and last year just one tab bill had 3 different errors. Richland County residents should be afraid, very afraid. This story is disturbing.

  3. Randall permalink
    October 16, 2009 7:28 AM

    The children of School District 2 need this money, and are entitled to it. Brawley needs to get off the dime and make sure this happens and quick. I pay ENOUGH already without having Paul Brawley playing with the tax bills!

  4. FRO123 permalink
    October 16, 2009 7:33 AM

    We are truly being overdosed on unimportant news and therefore business like this gets passed over. Everyone knows Rush Limbaugh has NFL problems, but no one realizes the Auditor of Richland County can take tax dollars away for schools. We pay lots of money for our school then to see some jack-leg come along and thwart council and divert money away from the schools!

    Where is Henry McMaster? He needs to find out about the school money!

  5. Taxpayer permalink
    October 16, 2009 7:58 AM

    There is no way an auditor can over rule the County Council. Council should be very careful…or it will have no power left. Brawley was elected to follow the law andsend out the bill. Council has the power to tax.

  6. Hal permalink
    October 16, 2009 9:57 AM

    Henery McMaster should be checking in on this. I can’t believe this is legal, and I sure know it ain’t right. But politicians hate checking on other politicians, so I assume nothing will happen.

  7. Union County permalink
    October 16, 2009 1:25 PM

    We in Union have problems with bad leadership. It is nice to see we are not alone. I wonder if Brawley is from Union?

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