“I don’t want to negotiate with Orangeburg County on this ordinance, I don’t want to fix this ordinance, I don’t want this ordinance to exist,” Sunshine Recycling CEO Joe Rich said.
Business leaders and community members filled the Carolina Room of the Cinema on Thursday evening to discuss a business license ordinance being considered by Orangeburg County Council.
“I’m just here to try and help inform everybody as to what impact it’s going to have for me, what my opinion is on it and how I think we should go forward as a community to try and derail this ordinance,” Rich said. “Ultimately, that’s my goal.”
Council was scheduled to give second reading to the ordinance during a special called meeting on June 27. They decided to postpone the reading upon hearing community members’ concerns.
In a release, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ted Pitts said Orangeburg County Council should reverse course before it imposes a business license.
“The business license tax, under consideration by the Orangeburg County Council, is not only burdensome for businesses to comply with because of the process, but is also bad because it taxes gross revenue whether you make a profit or not,” Pitts said. “Orangeburg is on the cusp of an economic boom, but adding a new tax on business is sure to have a negative impact.”
Most counties in the region that Orangeburg competes with for jobs and investment do not charge a county business license tax, he said. Pitts says the business license would put Orangeburg County at a competitive disadvantage.
“This tax directly targets small, family-owned businesses already struggling to make ends meet,” Pitts said.
In the meeting, Rich and the audience present read through the proposed ordinance.
Dennis Branham of Branham Roofing and Construction said the business license will “run businesses out of Orangeburg County.”
He believes it would be fairer to spread a tax increase across the county instead.
“It needs to be passed on through to everybody that lives here,” Branham said. “Don’t pick out a very few that’s trying to put employees in this county.”
Martha Garrick, an owner of Garrick Farms said, “I think our tax problem with the county can be solved without going through this business license.”
“This will be a burden on everybody,” she added. “We’re trying to bring businesses in to Orangeburg County and this will not help.”
Garrick said because the ordinance requires peddlers to purchase a business license as well, it would affect roadside farmers selling fruits or vegetables.
“We’re trying to make a living, pay our bills and be good citizens,” she said. “How much more can we be taxed?”
Garrick is concerned her family’s business will not be able to sustain itself for much longer.
She said last year was a hard year for farmers to pay their bills and the upcoming years look tougher.
“You’re going to tax people out of business. They can’t live off it and pay the bills,” Garrick said. “They should know this is not fair.”
Those at the meeting signed pledge cards saying they will contact their council person and attend the meeting Monday, July 17, when the Orangeburg County Council will return for possible second reading of the ordinance. Three readings are required.
Orangeburg County officials have said the business license requirement will allow them to raise more than $1 million without increasing the millage rate on all taxpayers.
To raise a similar amount of money, the county would have to increase taxes by about four mills. It’s not allowed to increase the rate by that much in one year, however, because of the state millage cap.