Casey v. Richland County Council, 22146

Decision Date04 June 1984
Docket NumberNo. 22146,22146
Citation282 S.C. 387,320 S.E.2d 443
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesJohn W. CASEY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Respondent, v. The RICHLAND COUNTY COUNCIL as the governing body of Richland County, and Richard L. Black, as County Administrator of Richland County, South Carolina, Appellants. . Heard

Richland County Atty., J. Lewis Cromer, Asst. County Atty., James L. Mann, II, and Sinkler, Gibbs & Simons, Columbia, for appellants.

Mitchell M. Willoughby, of Kneece, Kneece, Freeman, Willoughby, Ashley & Gibbons, Columbia, for respondent.

PEEPLES, Acting Justice:

This is a Declaratory Judgment action involving Richland County's Water and Sewer Ordinance 83HR and the implementing Resolution. The trial court held the Ordinance and Resolution invalid.

Appellant, Richland County, by the Ordinance would establish, operate and maintain a water and sewer system in the unincorporated area, specifically excluding the East Richland Public Service District.

John W. Casey, Respondent, asserts the surcharge imposed by the Resolution is a tax rather than an assessment which is prohibited by S.C.Code § 44-55-1410(A) and that both the Ordinance and Resolution violate the equal protection clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions. We agree the Resolution is invalid but hold the Ordinance valid.

Respondent, a resident of the unincorporated area, receives and pays for water and sewer services from the City of Columbia and would not use the County's proposed system. Yet the Resolution would require him to pay a surcharge to Richland County.

Appellant contends the trial court erred in ignoring the presumption of validity which attaches to all legislation, University of South Carolina v. Mehlman, 245 S.C. 180, 139 S.E.2d 771 (1964), especially legislation relating to police powers, Ward v. Town of Darlington, 183 S.C. 263, 190 S.E. 826 (1937). We acknowledge this applicable principle in examining purported health and welfare legislation to ensure its constitutionality.

Appellant argues the trial judge erroneously held the surcharge was a tax rather than an assessment. We disagree. To be an assessment, there must be a benefit and, if none, it is a tax. Taxes are imposed on all property for the maintenance of government while assessments are placed only on the property to be benefited by the proposed improvements. Celanese Corp. v. Strange, 272 S.C. 399, 252 S.E.2d 137 (1979).

We recognize the proposed system will improve sanitary conditions in the unincorporated area which would enhance property values but disagree with Appellant's claim that this generalized benefit is sufficient to make the surcharge an assessment. Wright v. Proffitt, 261 S.C. 68, 198 S.E.2d 275 (1973), Mills Mill v. Hawkins, 232 S.C. 515, 103 S.E.2d 14 (1957). To be an assessment, the improvement must confer a benefit on property distinguishable from the general benefit enjoyed by surrounding areas. Wright, supra. The benefit of improved sanitary conditions would inure to all 269,735 residents of Richland County, including 101,208 residents of the City of Columbia, 42,642 people in East Richland as well as those in the unincorporated area who have private wells and septic tanks, none of whom are required to pay the surcharge. We hold the asserted benefit is general in nature and cannot...

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11 cases
  • Lee v. DEPT. OF NATURAL RESOURCES
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • 27 Marzo 2000
    ... ... company at higher rate than other businesses); Casey v. Richland County Council, 282 S.C. 387, 320 S.E.2d 443 ... ...
  • JK CONST. v. REGIONAL SEWER AUTHORITY
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • 2 Agosto 1999
    ... ... The district includes most of Greenville County and portions of three surrounding counties. Authority owns ... County of Horry, supra; Robinson v. 336 S.C. 168 Richland County Council, 293 S.C. 27, 33, 358 S.E.2d 392, 396 (1987) ...         JKC's reliance upon Casey v. Richland County Council, 282 S.C. 387, 320 S.E.2d 443 ... ...
  • Town of Hilton Head Island v. Fine Liquors, Ltd.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • 26 Septiembre 1990
    ...a presumption of validity attaches to all legislation, especially legislation relating to police powers. Casey v. Richland County Council, 282 S.C. 387, 320 S.E.2d 443 (1984). The exercise of police power is subject to judicial correction only if the action is arbitrary and has no reasonabl......
  • Brown v. County of Horry
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • 21 Enero 1992
    ... ... County Council; Ulysses DeWitt, Grayson Register, Dewey ... Kirkley, R. Gray Steel, John ... Robinson v. Richland County, 293 S.C. 27, 31, 358 S.E.2d 392, 395 (1987) ... See Robinson v. Richland County Council, supra; Casey v. Richland County Council, 282 S.C. 387, 320 S.E.2d 443 (1984) ... ...
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