As the Fort Mill school district cracks down on drivers in S.C. operating cars with out-of-state tags, officials in Horry County schools already have seen millions in funding as a result of that action.
State law requires people who move to South Carolina to register their car in the state, pay their car taxes and get a S.C. license plate within 45 days. S.C. drivers pay their car taxes a year in advance.
Vehicle taxes contribute to funding for school operations, so drivers who do not properly register their cars in S.C. could be costing local schools thousands of dollars.
“It has been brought to the school district’s attention that there are a high number of vehicles with out-of-state license tags dropping-off or picking-up students at our schools,” a Fort Mill school district statement reads. “The Fort Mill school board has directed the district administration to begin collecting vehicle tag number and state of registration for each vehicle that will regularly drop-off or pick-up students at our schools as part of our annual student registration/enrollment process.”
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For years, Horry County officials have tracked out-of-state tags coming into their schools, which had more than 43,101 students in 2016.
In 2016, the Horry County auditor’s office generated more than $100,000 in tax revenue for schools by tracking out-of-state tags.
Horry County Auditor Lois Eargle has spearheaded the effort for more than 20 years. Eargle said it took a few years to get the school board to approve, but now auditor field investigators go to school campuses and check for out-of-state tags.
Eargle said the investigators monitor cars during student drop-off in the mornings and report any out-of-state tags they see.
“(The schools) appreciate it,” she said. “We’re not there to harass anyone.”
Horry County auditor employees are allowed onto school campuses to track and follow-up on out-of-state tags, said Lisa Bourcier, spokesperson with the school district.
The district collects vehicle tag information during the student registration process and assists the auditor’s office in verifying if an out-of-state tag is connected to a registered student, Bourcier said.
As a result, many Horry County drivers have been required to properly register their car, giving the schools millions of dollars over two decades, Eargle said.
“Every year for the last three years, we’ve increased our vehicle (tax revenues) by 15 percent,” she said.
In 2016, the Horry County auditor’s office sent 1,397 letters to drivers with out-of-state tags, said Stephen Thompson, supervisor of the Myrtle Beach location, which primarily handles out-of-state tags. Of the letters sent in 2016, 975 were in violation of the registration law.
By following up with the violators, the auditor’s office generated more than $100,000 in tax revenue for schools, Thompson said. On a $30,000 car, Horry County schools get $239.58 in tax revenue.
“It’s very important that people do the right thing,” Thompson said. “It’s funding you are using, and not paying your fair share. You need to do what’s right, and that would be to help support schools in this state.”
You need to do what’s right, and that would be to help support schools in this state.
Stephen Thompson, Horry County auditor’s office
Fort Mill saw the success Horry County has had reporting out-of-state tags, said Fort Mill school board member Diane Dasher.
Fort Mill school district officials are planning to provide the York County Auditor’s Office with a list of out-of-state tags that come through the district, said Joe Burke, spokesperson for the district. It will be up to the auditor’s office to follow up.
Horry County also gets calls from residents reporting out-of-state tags on their neighbor, coworker or friends’ cars, Eargle said. She said it has become a community effort.
“So many people got tired of seeing people riding around with out-of-state tags,” Eargle said. “It’s a motto we have here in Horry County.”
Horry County residents can also report out-of-state tags on the auditor’s office website.
Drivers who do not register their car within the 45 days may face a fine of $232.50, said Sgt. Bob Beres, spokesperson for S.C. Highway Patrol.
Drivers can calculate the 45-day deadline date using a form on the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicle’s website.
Drivers who move to S.C 90 days to get their new drivers license and must pay a $250 infrastructure maintenance fee.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, S.C. registration fees will increase $16 as part of legislation that also increased the state’s gas tax and added the maintenance fee, said Lauren Phillips, spokesperson for the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.
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By the numbers
As of September 30, 2017, there were 305,927 registered items in Horry County. Of those, 217,479 are private passenger cars, with others vehicles including motorcyles, taxis and buses, RVs and utility trailors.
In 2016, the S.C. Highway Patrol issued 10,030 tickets for vehicle license violations. (This number includes tickets written for out-of-state drivers who did not properly register their car).
In 2016, the Horry County auditor’s office sent 1,397 letters to drivers with out-of-state tags.
Of the letters sent in 2016, 975 were in violation of the registration law, which ended up generating more than $100,000 in tax revenue for Horry County schools.
Reporting out-of-state tags
To report an out-of-state tag that belongs to a person living in South Carolina, call the York County Auditor’s Office at 803-909-7171 or 803-684-8501.
For Horry County residents, out-of-state tags can be reported on the auditor’s office website.