Dust seems to have settled on game planning Lake Wylie’s new recreation tax district.
Following a public hearing at which no one spoke, York County Council unanimously approved second reading April 17 to create it. The final reading could come as early as May 1. The district creates a tax on homes and businesses in Lake Wylie to be used for recreation programs within the taxed area.
County leaders have taken their time detailing how the district will operate since voters approved it in November. Most duties fall to the county manager in the latest ordinance version, from buying recreational equipment and hiring to building sports facilities. A five-member citizen board will be set up to “assist and advise” the county manager, but also can address Council on areas of disagreement.
The latest ordinance specifically mentions a 50-acre site the county owns along Crowders Creek as a focus for the recreation district. Other recreation space could be added in time. The major push for the recreation district was a community sports park plan on those 50 acres.
The issue of how the district will operate is an important one in Lake Wylie.
When voters approved it in November, all of the county’s seven special tax districts had citizen boards in operational control of the district. Two more countywide taxes – an accommodations tax on overnight lodging and a hospitality tax on prepared food and drink – had appointed boards recommending how to allocate funds.
Community members pushing for the new recreation tax likened it to the various fire tax districts already in place.
Yet the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department was going through more than a year of strife between volunteers and its tax board on who should be in control. Since November, the county voted to get rid of the citizen-run board for the Bethel tax district and put control with county administration. Work then began on the recreation tax district, which also will fall under county control, but will keep a five-citizen board.
A consultant was brought in to look at fire tax districts countywide.
Ed Lindsey, who sat on the Bethel fire tax board before it was dissolved, said he is concerned the recreation district won’t have local control. He sees it as the second tax, following the creation of the fire district, where Lake Wylie residents voted to tax themselves and then ceded control to the county.
“I am looking at if what they're doing is legal,” Lindsey said. “The voters approved the district based upon the citizens controlling the money, not the county.”
The text appearing on the November ballot mentions the recreation district board, but only that it could determine “reasonable user service charges” for recreation activities beyond the initial tax. York County Council, according to the ballot question, could “hereafter determine” the tax levy up to 10 mill per year. The county manager only is listed by office, as the place where the tax map is filed.
The ballot question did state the tax district would be in place so “that recreation services may be rendered” within its borders, and the tax with possible user fees — groups renting field space at a new sports complex, for instance — would “provide for the operation and maintenance of the functions” of the tax district.
Bill Shanahan, county manager, said the time and detail that have gone into the latest ordinance revision leaves him confident in the new setup.
“The York County government has put together the current plan, in reference to the Lake Wylie park, under the guidance of our attorney,” he said. “Therefore, we have complete confidence that the current direction reflects what the voters approved in November.”
Remember the ballot?
The following text appeared on the November ballot. Lake Wylie residents approved the measure, creating a special recreation tax:
“Shall a special tax district to be known as Lake Wylie Parks and Recreation District, the area and boundaries of which are described in the Notice of Election and appear on the tax map of the proposed Lake Wylie Parks and Recreation District filed in the Office of the York County Manager and the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of York County, be created in order that recreation services may be rendered therein, with an ad valorem tax to be levied annually by the Auditor of York County and collected by the Treasurer of York County in such amount as the York County Council may hereafter determine, not to exceed ten (10) mills per year, as well as reasonable user service charges to be determined by the Board of the Lake Wylie Parks and Recreation District, in order to provide for the operation and maintenance of the functions of the said special tax district?”