Originally created 12/18/97

Town's Christmas gift to residents: No property taxes



FORT LAWN, S.C. -- It's the kind of Christmas gift even Scrooge would love: a whole year without property taxes.

That's what happened Dec. 1 in this Chester County town of 780 residents. Mayor Earl Thrailkill sent out postcards to each household telling them of their good fortune.

"We are delighted to inform you that there will not be a property tax for the town of Fort Lawn in 1997. Sincerely, Mayor Thrailkill and Council," the card read.

Thrailkill isn't up for re-election. He just found a way to save taxpayers a few dollars.

"It's very easy for people in public office to spend the public's money, but the town of Fort Lawn has been very frugal," he said.

Thrailkill said he, the Town Council and town clerk discovered that abolishing the property tax actually would save money.

Fort Law collects $42,000 in a local sales tax and about $20,000 in property taxes. But the town must give more than $20,000 of the sales tax to the state. If the town doesn't have a property tax, it can keep all $42,000 of the local sales tax.

The town gets more money and the people get a break. Fort Lawn will still balance its $151,740 budget and pay for two police officers, a fire station, the senior center and other services.

"It tickled me plumb to death," resident William Pate said. "I'd like to see it go county- and statewide."

Chester city administrator Ed Driggers oversees a $3.2 million budget and says that won't happen. Driggers said counties and cities provide more services than Fort Lawn and can't rely on local sales taxes alone.

Property taxes weren't high in Fort Lawn, about $76 on a $100,000 house. And citizens still will pay Chester County, state and federal taxes. But residents agreed that every little bit helps.

"I love it," said Gwen White, a Fort Lawn native. "I got the Christmas card and said, `Oh, cool! No more taxes."'