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Transportation and education funding took top billing at the winter meeting of the Association of SC Mayors. More than 50 mayors from cities of all sizes gathered in Columbia to hear briefings on transportation and education proposals that will be considered in the 2013 legislative session.

"We, as mayors, have a responsibility to understand how state policy affects the residents and businesses in our cities and towns," said Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols, president of ASCM.

Bill Ross, executive director of SC Alliance to Fix Our Roads, spoke to the mayors about the challenges of $30 billion in state infrastructure needs over the next 20 years. Scott Price, general counsel with the SC School Boards Association, gave the mayors an overview of a proposal by several education organizations to overhaul state education funding. Both of these issues directly affect the finances and quality of life in cities and towns, Echols noted.

Scott Price
Scott Price, general counsel with the SC School Boards Association, briefs mayors on proposed changes to education funding.
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Municipal Association staff briefed the mayors on the status of the Local Government Fund which had typically been a consistent source of funding for local programs and services until the past five years. "The LGF has seen a decrease because of falling state revenues and additional legislative reductions," said Melissa Carter, legislative and research liaison with the Municipal Association. The General Assembly starts the session with an $81 million hole in the LGF.

Another major issue of interest to the mayors is finding solutions to the challenges of dilapidated buildings that mar downtowns and neighborhoods. Warren Harley, government affairs liaison with the Municipal Association, briefed mayors on a bill that will be introduced in the 2013 session that would give cities and towns an additional tool to deal with these dangerous structures.

"Dilapidated buildings are a blight on our downtowns and neighborhoods, plus they are a public safety hazard for the business owners and residents with property near these buildings," Harley said. "This bill would give cities and towns a tool to join with private sector or non-profit developers to bring these buildings back to a useful purpose."

The mayors also learned about a similar bill introduced by Rep. James Smith that would offer tax credits for developers for buildings that have been at least 66 percent abandoned for at least five years. The amount of the tax credit available to the developer would be based on the population of the city where the building is located.