Drivers in S.C. operating cars with out-of-state tags 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.”
The discussion came up at a Sept. 25 school board retreat.
“This new initiative is a collaborative effort between the York County Auditor’s Office and the Fort Mill school district to identify vehicles that have not been properly registered in the state,” the statement reads.
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 school operations funding. If cars are not properly registered, that decreases money flowing to the schools, said York County auditor Amy Boheler.
“The taxes paid go to funding the services the community receives: schools, police protection and convenience centers,” she said. “It’s all about fairness. Everyone wants to be treated fairly.”
On a car valued at $30,000, the Fort Mill school district would receive $538.56 from the taxes collected, said Joe Burke, spokesperson for the district.
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, Burke said. It will be up to the auditor’s office to follow up.
“Vehicles not properly registered in the state are not contributing tax money to the county which helps to pay for a number of services, including local schools,” the district statement says. “Parents will be asked to provide this information as part of the registration/enrollment process and will be given options to justify tags that are registered out of state.”
Vehicles not properly registered in the state are not contributing tax money to the county which helps to pay for a number of services, including local schools.
Joe Burke, Fort Mill school district
Justifications include a family member who drives a company-owned car for a business based in Charlotte or a family member who does not live in S.C. but picks up or drops off a student, according to the district.
There are also some exceptions to the state registration law, including for active duty military or their spouse who claim another state as their primary residence, according to the York County Auditor’s office.
Some out-of-state tags also may belong to students attending school in S.C. but who maintain their home state as their primary residence, Boheler said. Some drivers also may not know they have to register within 45 days, she said.
Drivers can calculate the 45-day deadline date using a form on the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicle’s 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 who move to S.C. have 90 days to get their new drivers license and must pay a $250 infrastructure maintenance fee.
Data gathered by Fort Mill school officials have described the effects of Act 388 as an “operational funding crisis.”
The law, which began in 2006, replaces local property tax on owner-occupied homes with a one-cent sales tax increase on most retail purchases.
Fort Mill board member Patrick White has data showing flattened revenue despite a surge in student population, increasing classroom sizes and higher student-teacher ratios. Data shows the school district has lost more than $60 million in funding on about 6,000 homes built within the district since 2008, with more homes on the way.
Improperly registered cars adds to the problem.
“Any funding we can find, we’re going to take advantage of,” said Fort Mill school board member Diane Dasher.
Any funding we can find, we’re going to take advantage of.
Diane Dasher, Fort Mill school board
With nearly 15,000 students and more than a thousand new residences set to be built in the area, Fort Mill is one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state. Out-of-state tags is not an issue on the radar of other local districts at this time.
Boheler said there are cases where people do not register their cars as they should, but the auditor’s office does not have the staff to track them. Instead, they rely on residents calling in and reporting out-of-state tags still used by people living in S.C.
“We’re sure there a lot of them are out there,” Boheler said.
However, the office has to be made aware of the tags to take action, Boheler said. If they are reported, the auditor’s office follows up with the car’s owner.
By working with the auditor’s office, the Fort Mill school district hopes to get more vehicles properly registered.
“This type of collaborative effort has been successful in other counties to lower the number of improperly registered vehicles in their area and we believe it will have the same effect in our district,” the statement says.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082
By the Numbers
By June 30, 2017 there were:
▪ 250,468 vehicles registered in York County
▪ 80,950 vehicles registered in Lancaster County
▪ 32,459 vehicles registered in Chester County
▪ 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).
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.