Councilwoman casts sole ‘no’ vote on county fees

Darlington County Council Member Angie Stone Godbold. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

editor@newsandpress.net

Darlington County Council member Angie Stone Godbold isn’t looking to start a fight with her colleagues, but she has some doubts about how the county killed its $30-a-year road-maintenance fee without losing the $1.7 million it brings in annually. Godbold, who represents the Darlington area, cast the only “no” vote Sept. 20 when council, during a four-minute meeting, gave final approval to a plan eliminating the road fee vehicle owners must pay, but raising another fee by the same amount so the county won’t lose the money it needs to fix roads. After the meeting, Godbold posted a statement on Facebook saying: “I feel the move is premature and I felt rushed. I do not feel like it’s right to just ‘change the bucket’ (on the fees) . . . and, truth be known, I also felt like it was an insult to the citizens to think, just because we’re in a position to make such a change, that it’s what should be done and that you’d accept it.” Godbold added: “In defense of my colleagues, I completely understand their decision and how important it is for Darlington County to have those funds. However, if $30 on a tax bill (totaling $1.7M) will make or break this county, we have some big fish to fry.” She said: “So, I’m the ‘odd girl’ out, I guess, and I’m sure there will be a little price to pay for going against the grain, but I weighed that, too, and I’ll sleep good tonight.” The road-maintenance fee became an issue for Darlington County because a recent S.C. Supreme Court ruling struck down a similar fee in Greenville County as illegal. That ruling put all S.C. counties on notice that their local road-maintenance fees might be challenged in their local courts. Darlington County Administrator Charles Stewart told the News & Press, “We do not believe our fee is illegal.” But to avoid a possible “issue or a challenge” on the fee, County Council voted to kill the annual $30 fee in its entirety, and at the same time, to raise the county’s annual emergency-services fee for vehicle owners from $15 to $45. Stewart said there will be no net change, no increase in taxes and no additional cost for vehicle owners. And the county will not lose the $1.7 million a year that the road-maintenance fee has been generating for road work. In her Facebook post, Godbold alluded to – but did not name – another County Council issue she now has issues with. “A few weeks ago,” she wrote, “council pushed another deal a little too quick for me and I rushed my judgment. I regret it. I sent an e-mail to all council members explaining my thoughts. I also explained that I wouldn’t rush my judgment ever again at the expense of the people. The decision still eats at me – would the outcome have been different, NO – because it takes a majority to rock the boat, and some like smooth sailing, and that’s OK.” In a later post on the News & Press’ Facebook page, Godbold said she was not “questioning” the county’s actions on the road fee. “I completely understand ‘why’ my colleagues voted in favor of the matter,” she wrote. “I simply have a different opinion and voted accordingly. “I understand the need for property taxes, sales tax, etc.; however, in my opinion, we shouldn’t always look to the citizens as the sole source for revenue. Increasing the local option sales tax could make up the difference and it has to be voted on by the citizens, so it’s imposed only if they agree to it — but economic development is CRUCIAL in lessening the burden of taxes/fees for citizens. “We need small business development as well as industrial-based development. In addition, a thorough review of our spending habits is paramount in determining not IF but WHERE we can improve our spending habits and combine resources where possible.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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