Tax-Exempt Properties Cut into Tax Base


June 15, 2008

By Lynne P. Shackleford – Spartanburg Herald Journal

The city of Spartanburg has one of the highest percentages of tax-exempt properties of any municipalities in the state, posing an annual challenge for city leaders as they craft an operating budget.

Howard Duvall, executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina, said the infrastructure and services cities provide are attractive to nonprofit organizations, churches and governmental entities and are the reasons many want to locate there.

“It’s beneficial for them to have a physical presence in the city, but by their nature, they are exempt from paying property taxes, so it’s one of the factors cities have to deal with,” Duvall said. “Look around the state, and most nontaxable institutions are located inside the city. All of the (state) universities are except Clemson.”

About 35 percent of the land in the city of Spartanburg is tax-exempt because it’s owned by nonprofit organizations, governments, colleges and universities, hospitals and churches. About 17 percent is held by Converse and Wofford Colleges and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. About 8 percent is owned by churches and nonprofit organizations.

In comparison, about 4 percent of the land in the city of Rock Hill, and 6 percent of the parcels in the city of Greenville are exempt from property taxes. Only about 1 percent of land in the town of Mount Pleasant is tax exempt.

Richland County Tax Assessor John Cloyd said about 6 percent of parcels in the city of Columbia are exempt from taxes, but that figure is misleading because the University of South Carolina has about 5 square miles of holdings in the center of downtown.

As the state capital, many acres in the city are held by the federal government. Federal office buildings. USC, Columbia College, Columbia International University and Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital are also in the city of Columbia. The state owns 142 acres in downtown Columbia occupied by the former state mental health hospital on Bull Street.



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