The McDuffie County Board of Commissioners discussed raising fees on business licenses during a work session Monday night.

Planning and Zoning Director Chase Beggs told commissioners the county is losing revenue from business license fees because some small businesses are falsifying their number of employees – saying they have fewer workers than they do – in order to pay a lower fee.

Occupational licenses are based on the number of workers employed by a business, Beggs explained. Currently, if a business has only one employee they would pay $75 for an occupational tax certificate. For businesses with 2 to 5 employees the fee is $125 and for 6-10 employees the fee is $275.

The proposed fee schedule would implement a slightly different set up, Beggs said. A business with one to 5 employees would pay a $100 business license fee. For businesses with 6-10 employees the fee would be the same as before, $275, and so on with the rest of the proposed schedule’s employee categories.

The new fee schedule would increase business license revenue by $2,250, according to Beggs. He said business license fee schedules implemented by surrounding counties, like Columbia County, have a similar fee set-up to the proposed fee schedule, but the actual fees are slightly higher.

Commissioners also discussed their meeting schedule for the coming month of November. The commission would have to find an alternative meeting place or reschedule their meetings because the Government Center’s large downstairs meeting room, considered a secure location, will be used for the counting of ballots in early November, county officials said.

County Administrator David Crawley said the first public hearing on the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021 is set for Nov. 4, when the meeting room will still be in use by the McDuffie County Elections and Voter Registration office following the Nov. 3 election.

Crawley suggested pushing the hearing back to the second week of November. The second and final public hearing for a proposed FY 2021 budget is set for Nov. 17, when the commission is expected to vote to adopt the draft budget. Next year’s budget will become effective on Jan. 1, 2021.

The county administrator asked commissioners to review the tentative budget for 2021 and communicate to staff any questions or concerns.

The draft budget for FY 2021 proposes a General Fund of $12,614,587 in revenues and $12,353,184 in expenses, and an overall budget of $35,649,647 in revenues and $35,388,244 in expenses.

The proposed budget for 2021 does not include salary increases or capital items, Crawley said.

The 2020 general fund budget listed revenues and expenses at $13,105,439 and an overall budget of $29,499,043.

Before adjourning the meeting, Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said he has spoken to numerous citizens who don’t seem to understand what would happen if voters do not approve a continuation of SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).

Newton said if voters decide against renewing SPLOST, current collections from the one-penny sales tax (SPLOST VI) would end on Dec. 31.

Newton said if a new SPLOST (SPLOST VII) does not pass in November, officials could not bring it up for a voter referendum again until 2022.

SPLOST funds are used for capital improvement projects. Examples of SPLOST projects include construction of public buildings, purchase of equipment and vehicles, and upgrades to infrastructure.

If voters approve a SPLOST renewal in this year’s General Election, revenues from a SPLOST VII collection would begin in January 2021.

County officials estimate SPLOST VII will bring in tax revenues of $21,206,480 million over a six-year period.

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