Area business leaders made one thing clear when the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce released its 2008 legislative agenda last week: Education is important to local businesses, but they don't want to be the only ones footing the rising bills.
The chamber called for state lawmakers to revisit how schools are funded, saying the new system of an increased sales tax in lieu of school taxes on homeowners has reduced money to growing school districts. Because local schools now can raise property taxes only on business owners, chamber leaders said local merchants are at risk of footing the difference in the growing bill.
"Such additional cost will burden local businesses and their ability to remain globally competitive," chamber board chairman Wayne Wingate said.
To solve the dilemma, the chamber is asking state leaders to provide more dollars to growing districts, such as those in York County where spending caps may mean crowded classrooms, a smaller budget and school leaders looking for dollars from local businesses.
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Unfortunately for local merchants, many in state government aren't going to see things the same way. The property tax changes (known as Act 388) were put in place last year for many reasons, but none bigger than these two: to ease the skyrocketing tax bills of coastal homeowners and to funnel more money to poverty-stricken, rural school districts.
While it has enjoyed the cheaper tax bills in spite of booming school districts, York County doesn't fit either category. In fact, many local leaders opposed it from the get-go, meaning reversing the young legislation will be an uphill battle.
Local business leaders better lace up their gloves and pad the tax line in their budgets, because it will likely be a lengthy fight.
Here's a look at some of the other legal issues local merchants are addressing this year:
• Continuing on the education theme, the chamber will oppose school choice legislation and call for state lawmakers to provide more money for York Technical College and Winthrop University.
• It will ask Columbia to continue addressing water transfers (with special attention to the proposed Cabarrus County, N.C., inter-basin transfer) that may harm South Carolina.
• It will ask that taxes be raised on tobacco and the money be used for health care for uninsured workers.
• It will ask for a tax increase on fuel to pay for bridge and road maintenance or finding a similar source of money for roads.
For the complete legislative agenda, call the chamber at 324-7500.
It's for charity
Warmer weather means local businesses soon will host sundry walks, rides and other fundraisers for charitable organizations.
Chick-fil-A at the Rock Hill Galleria will host Multiple Sclerosis Night on Monday. The restaurant, off Dave Lyle Boulevard in front of the Galleria mall, will donate a portion of its profits Monday evening to Tri-County Walk MS. The walk will be held at 9 a.m. April 12 at Manchester Meadows. The money raised will be used to research treatment for the disease.
Brothers Air and Heat will host "Crusin' the Road to a Cure," motorcycle ride at 9 a.m. April 5 to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Registration is $20, and participants will receive a T-shirt and free lunch. Sign up online at www.brotherair.com or call the office at 1320 E. Main St. at 327-4040.
Coming and going
Popular chicken restaurant Zaxby's will open its second York County location later this year in York. The 2,700-square-foot casual dining joint already is under construction off East Liberty Street in York. It will be the second York County Zaxby's.
Hooper's Bar and Grill has expanded. The Fort Mill sports bar has opened a second location at 4124 Celanese Blvd., at the corner of Museum Road. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For details, call 980-3990.
In Shape Rock Hill is now open at Chandler Commons. The personal training studio recently moved from Fort Mill and is now up and running in the former Ladies Workout Express space at 727 Dilworth Lane, Suite 101. Operated by trainers Michelle Orme and Al Nobles, the studio offers personal training and nutritional counseling. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 329-6666 or visit the Web site www.inshaperockhill.com.
Dunkin Donuts on Cherry Road has brewed its last cup of joe. The franchise this week closed its Cherry Road store. But doughnut lovers need not fear, the Dunkin Donuts on Celanese and Dave Lyle are still in business.
Tip of the cap
• Wendy Thomas, Crystal Fagan, Patti Henderson and Gina Chapman of ERA Wilder Realty in Rock Hill recently were recognized at the International Business Conference for being among the top producers in real estate sales.
• First Citizens Bank recently was awarded first place in the Junior Achievement 2008 Bowl-A-Thon. The First Citizens team also won the spirit award, which is given to the team that showed the most spirit during the event.
• Several local companies were recognized by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce for making workplace safety a priority. Those honored include: Blue Star Silicones USA, GAF Materials -- Chester Glass Mat Plant, S.C. Department of Transportation Chester maintenance division and Springs Global.
• Carolinas Prudential Realty recently honored Melanie Knight and the Vickie Kessinger team from the Rock Hill office as top sales leaders in 2007.
• Robbie King, Lancaster Allstate insurance agent, recently earned the personal financial representative title. King now will be able to provide customers variable annuity, variable life and mutual fund products, in addition to auto, homeowner and traditional life insurance products.