A 400-percent increase in his annual business license fee is “extreme,” David Cantley told the Holly Hill Town Council during their monthly meeting on Monday, April 1.

“In April 2023, the Holly Hill Farm Center paid $4,248 in business licenses. My bill as it stands right now is up over $16,000 because of the actions of the town council,” he continued.

He said the business is “paying over $18,000 in taxes and fees just to be in Holly Hill, and this does not count water, sewer, or garbage pickup.”

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“That’s $1,000 per employee more (than last year) that I’m going to be paying. That’s coming out of their pockets,” he said.

“I have to compete with companies that are not in Holly Hill, that are out in the county, and thus giving them a competitive edge over myself because of the amount of taxes that I’m having to pay in Holly Hill.”

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It could not be immediately determined how much more or less Orangeburg County would have charged the company for a business license if it was outside the Holly Hill town limits.

“A 400% increase in one year is more than it needs to be; it’s more than it should be, in my opinion. We need to let businesses prosper, not taxed into leaving the town,” he said.

During a typical public hearing, leaders explain the details and reasons of their intended course of action and then invite citizens to offer comments and suggestions.That’s not what occurred at the Holly Hill Town Council’s monthly meeting on Monday, March 4.

“I know it takes money to run a town, but this much money at one time is bad for businesses. This might force us to look at alternatives to downtown Holly Hill.” Cantley said his father bought the farm center nearly 50 years ago.

“Our (gross revenue) numbers are big, but our margins are not,” Cantley said. “I’m being penalized.”

Mayor Billy Chavis responded that state law requires towns to base their business license rates on gross revenues, not profits.

Four residential developers have signed letters of intent to give the Town of Holly Hill a total of $15,625,963.80 to build a new wastewater treatment facility.

He asked Cantley if he could recall the last time the town increased the business license rates. Cantley said he could not.

Chavis said it was about 30 years ago, and since then, the cost of just about everything has gone up, “so you have to look for ways to get creative on raising” the money that is needed to operate a town “in the 21st century.”

He said he noticed the town collected only $260,000 in business license revenues in the year before he became mayor.

A more aggressive collection effort generated $459,000 last year – and that was before the new rates became effective.

Raising the rates “was not taken lightly,” the mayor said. “There will never, as long as I’m here, there will never be another spike like this.”

Also during the council meeting:

Chavis said the utility employees will check to see which water meters, if any, are connected to lead or copper pipes. “It’s another way to ensure that your drinking water is safe,” he said.

The council voted to enter into an agreement with TextMyGov for $2,000 per year. Details will be announced in the coming weeks, when the service becomes available to the public.

The council approved a resolution recognizing April as Fair Housing Month and other matters relating thereto.

The council gave second and final reading to an ordinance authorizing a non-exclusive franchise agreement with Brightspeed of South Carolina and other matters related thereto. Instead of buying an annual business license, the Internet service provider will pay a percentage of its revenues from its Holly Hill customers.

The council gave first reading to an ordinance requiring certain water customers to have backflow preventers and check valves to eliminate the possibility of contaminating the public water system.

Chavis thanked the owner of a vacant downtown building for having it boarded up within hours after a car struck it on March 23. Four years ago, two people died in a car crash that left the building and one next door unfit to occupy.

The Holly Hill Planning and Zoning Commission will meet on Monday, April 8, at 5 p.m. in the small conference room at the governmental complex, 8423 Old State Road.

The Holly Hill Board of Zoning Appeals will meet on Tuesday, April 9, at 5 p.m. in the Dantzler Building in Gilmore Park.

The Holly Hill Town Council’s next monthly meeting is set for Monday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the courtroom of the governmental complex. Contact Town Clerk Shelia Williams at 803-496-3330 for details.

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