The men and women who serve on Greenville County’s 12-member council are all tax-paying citizens of the county and, consistent with the state’s constitution, residents of the districts they represent.
But the circumstances of their residency and how much they pay vary widely.
The Greenville News used a background check and public records to review the property-tax status of all 12 council members after receiving a tip last week about a problem with the tax status of Greenville County Councilman Ennis Fant, Fant owns property in Anderson and Greenville counties and faces a back tax bill because of a period of at least four years before 2013 when he had legal residency in both counties. Taxes on cars and real estate play the leading role in financing the county budgetnty coffers — accounting for more than half of all revenue for the $250 million county budget in 2019.
Source: Greenville County 2018-2019 budget (Photo: Anna B. Mitchell)
Here is what The News found.
The review revealed that County Council Chairman Butch Kirven gets a discount on his residential property in Simpsonville based on its largely agricultural status. Kirven had for several decades kept cows on the property but told The News that he sold them several months ago.
Records show Kirven and his wife own 10.4 acres of pastureland and a 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom house on League Road and an additional 19.6 acres of farmland and a barn next door. Kirven applied in 1982 to have eight of his primary residence’s 10.4 acres placed under the reduced agricultural rate.
Butch Kirven, Greenville County Council chairman (Photo: Ken Ruinard / staff)
The market value of his home is $539,000, according to county records, but it is taxed at a value of $308,000 because of the pasture. With a homestead exemption, Kirven’s tax bill last year was $1,615.39.
Asked Friday whether he runs a farm on his property, Kirven said he has had cattle at the site since he and his wife moved in in 1977 up until recently when he had to get his fences mended. A bull was getting out. He said he is looking to get started again with cows and has someone coming this weekend to lease some of the area for his calves in the meantime.
"My dad had cows all my life growing up in Anderson County," Kirven said. "I know cows well."
Chairman of the finance committee, records show Bob Taylor — a retired academic dean who worked at Bob Jones University for 50 years — does not own real estate in Greenville County.
The home on Karen Drive that has been his residence for 45 years is owned by Bob Jones University.
"We are perfectly happy," Taylor said.
The university is tax exempt, and records show it is currently billed annually for public safety and storm-water fees — $165 last year. Taylor himself paid about $1,100 in county car taxes last year, according to county records.
The county had no record of Taylor applying for legal residency for tax purposes.
Greenville County Councilman Bob Taylor (Photo: Ken Ruinard / staff)
Taylor said the university, which at one point provided housing to administrators, is phasing that out.
Roberts, who heads up the council’s public safety committee, owns a home with his wife on Golden Wings Way in Greenville’s Eastside. With an assessed value of $562,460, it is the most expensive of the County Council members’ homes.
Roberts paid $3,581.45 in property taxes last year on the home, his primary residence, at the discounted 4% rate. Roberts and his wife applied for legal residence at the address in 2014.
Roberts also owns a home in Myrtle Beach, valued at $138,000. At the 6% rate charged for second homes, his tax bill last year was $1,701.54.
Records show Liz Seman, who heads up the council’s public works committee, owns a home with her husband on Tallulah Drive in Greenville. The home, valued at $426,600, is subject to city and county taxes, and they have established it as their legal residence. The Semans’ tax bill on their home last year was $3,551.62. Her home has the single highest tax bill.
Greenville County Council districts, 2019-2020 (Photo: Greenville County GIS/Anna B. Mitchell)
Records show Ballard owns a home with his wife on Shaded Acre Court in southern Greenville County. They maintain their legal residence at the home and last year paid $656.80 in taxes.
Records show Barnes, who represents the Greer area, owns a mix of at least a dozen residential and commercial properties under his name and under Barnes Properties LLC. He has a legal residency tax break at a house on Arlington Avenue in Greer.
All told, Barnes paid $13,364 in Greenville County property taxes this past year, including $719 on his $64,200 Arlington Avenue home. This is the most of any council member.
Cates owns a home with his wife on Cypress Knoll Way in Taylors, for which they have a legal residency and homestead exemption tax break. Homestead exemptions are granted to people over 65. The Cates’s tax bill last year was $1,824.45 on their $277,000 home.
Joe Dill represents the northern part of Greenville County and has owned two acres of land off State 101 in the Landrum area since 1974, according to county property records..
Dill uses a portion of the land for his primary residence and a portion of the land for his commercial business, which is reflected in a tax bill split in two parts. His total tax bill last year was $842.27 on land, commercial buildings and a three-bedroom home valued together at $124,000.
Greenville County Councilman Joe Dill (Photo: Ken Ruinard / staff)
Records show Norris owns a home on Ackley Road in Greenville’s Nicholtown community for which she receives two tax breaks: the 4% rate because it is her primary residence and a homestead exemption for individuals over the age of 65.
Norris’s tax bill last year was $315.78.
Norris also owns 10.2 acres of agricultural land on Horse Creek off Dunklin Bridge Road.
Greenville County Councilwoman Xanthene Norris (Photo: Ken Ruinard / staff)
Not accessible by road, the land has a market value of $32,700 but a reduced "agricultural use" value for tax purposes of $1,430. Her tax bill on this land last year was $55.52.
Dan Tripp established his legal residence with his wife at a home on Mauldin’s Hickory Lane in 2017.
Their home, valued at $127,000, was taxed at the 4% rate as their primary residence. With city of Mauldin taxes thrown in, the tax bill last year was $935.43.
Willis Meadows and his wife established legal residence on Queensbury Drive near Furman University in 1982. Their home, valued at $181,000, is taxed at 4% as their primary residence. Their bill last year: $1,247.88.
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