Annexation into Fort Mill could cost Indian Land taxpayers

joverman@fortmilltimes.com October 3, 2013 

— Annexation into the Town of Fort Mill wouldn’t mean a change in county seat for Indian Land, according to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, but it would mean other changes, including a potential tax increase and increase in services provided to the community.

If Indian Land were to one day consider being annexed into Fort Mill, an idea that has recently been floated by town leaders, the community would remain part of Lancaster County and property owners would pay taxes to the county as well as the municipal taxes that come with being part of the Town of Fort Mill.

“The difference is that the residents of the newly annexed part of Fort Mill would begin to receive services from the town,” said Scott Slatton, legislative and public policy advocate for the Municipal Association. “They’d get zoning protection, police protection, and they may or may not get fire protection, but at least they would maintain the level of protection they have.”

Having a town in multiple counties isn’t unusual, he added. Summerville, is in Berkley, Dorchester and Charleston counties, he said, and Irmo is in Richland and Lexington counties.

“No matter which county you live in, you still pay county taxes to the county you’re in,” he said.

If Indian Land were to be annexed into Fort Mill, the school district would be unaffected.

“School districts would not change based on municipal boundaries,” Slatton said.

Members of Indian Land Voice, a community group in the Panhandle, have been organizing efforts recently to support incorporating Indian Land. The change in discussion only happened recently when the president of Indian Land Voice, Melvin Threatt, was approached by Fort Mill leaders to discuss annexation.

The discussions were “short and hypothetical,” according to town spokesperson Kimberly Starnes.

Jan Tacy, vice president of the Indian Land Action Council, a civic organization, said annexing into Fort Mill is “an interesting idea,” but presents the same problems and challenges that incorporation does – more taxes on the residents.

“I’m not sure that is helping the residents of Indian Land,” she said. “I can see the advantages for Fort Mill, but it would seem to me like we’re accepting taxation.”

Another concern, she said, is how to identify the boundaries for annexation. The community of Indian Land is sometimes referred to as the area between the N.C. state line and Hwy. 75, but other residents consider Indian Land’s border at Hwy. 5. Postal service addresses in the community can list either Fort Mill or Indian Land, while still others are considered a Lancaster address.

“We have a problem now with our identity. Half use Fort Mill, half use Indian Land, others use Lancaster. GPS have a hard enough time finding us the way we are now. I’m not sure this is a solution,” Tacy said.

The bottom line, Tacy said, is that there are many questions and very few answers. She hopes that if the discussion on annexation continues there will be specific details for residents on how they could benefit and at what cost.

“I’d have to have Fort Mill spell it out line by line, what I’m really getting for my money before I voted for it, and then I’d give Lancaster the opportunity to match it,” Tacy said.

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