The U.S. Census Bureau released its latest population estimates this week, and the numbers are not surprising: Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Indian Land continue to see rapid growth. Chester County is losing people, and Smyrna in western York County continues to have one of the lowest – but growing – populations of any South Carolina municipality.
According to 2014 Census estimates, Smyrna’s population increased by 1 from 2010 to 2014, from 45 to 46. Smyrna is one of the smallest incorporated areas in the state.
Fort Mill showed the largest estimated growth, from 10,811 in the last census to 13,087, or 21 percent, followed by Tega Cay, from 7,620 to 9,120, or 19 percent.
No specific numbers were released for Indian Land, but Lancaster County administrator Steve Willis noted that almost all of the building permits for 2014 were from the county’s panhandle region. Lancaster city’s growth from 2000 to 2014 was 434 people, or 5 percent.
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Historically, most of the growth in the region south of Charlotte has been in the Indian Land-Fort Mill-Tega Cay area.
Overall, the projected growth of Lancaster County and York County through 2014 was about 8 percent more than the numbers in the 2010 Census.
Between 2013 and 2014, Lancaster County grew by 2,640 residents, an increase of 3.3 percent, according to Census figures, putting the county 26th in the nation for year-to-year growth.
York County's growth rate between 2013 and 2014 was 2.5 percent, with 5,931 new residents, ranking York County 68th nationally and fourth in the state, behind Lancaster, Horry and Beaufort counties.
Willis said the growth continues to put pressure on the Lancaster County budget as supervisors try to balance the suburban needs of Indian Land against the rest of the county, which is largely rural. He said the supervisors’ strategy has been to have gradual tax increases. This year’s proposed tax increase would add $13.30 in taxes to a home valued at $100,000, he said. Most new spending in the proposed budget is for public safety, Willis said.
Dean Faile, president of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, said increasing the number of rooftops – or residential construction – usually leads to more retail and restaurant development – something many residents have been asking for. The challenge is making sure education funding increases as more houses create more demand for schools. In South Carolina, primary residences are exempt from property taxes which help fund schools.
Chester County saw a drop in population. Estimates for 2014 placed the county population at 32,337, a drop of 803 residents.
The newly released population estimates included cities around the nation as of July 1 of last year. County data was released a few weeks earlier.
In South Carolina, rapid growth in Charleston means Columbia could lose its status as the state’s largest city.
Columbia has only about 2,000 more residents than Charleston, according to the latest Census data. Between the 2010 census and last year, Charleston has grown by more than 10,000 people. In that same time frame, Columbia grew by about 2,000 residents.
Charleston has about 130,000 residents, compared with 132,000 for Columbia.
Rock Hill’s population grew by 5.7 percent from 66,154 in 2010 to 69,967 in 2014.
The Associated Press contributed.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066