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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Jonathan Pait
May 22, 2001

Sour Grapes

I had an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Bill Harner to discuss my personal reservations to the proposed (now defeated) referendum for a 13.9 mils increase to our property taxes. I was shown the proposed budget and introduced to those in charge of the finances. Dr. Harner expressed himself well and made his case with sincerity.

I was impressed.

I didn't tell Dr. Harner that I had already voted no by absentee (It was a wonderful week at the Isle of Palms). I still wouldn't have changed my mind, but he did gain some of my sympathy. Really, for me, it wasn't Dr. Harner as much as it was the school board I didn't trust.

So, I watched with interest how the school board and Dr. Harner
reacted to the defeat. Upon arriving back in Greenville late on the 19th, I was pleasantly surprised to find our side had won this particular battle. I was not pleasantly surprised by the response of Dr. Harner. Sure, I expected Meek and the board to fall back on emotion and sarcasm. I did not expect that from Dr. Harner. I was disappointed.

I was not impressed.

Check your tags

I had a great time on the Isle of Palms the week before the
referendum. My three-year-old daughter saw the ocean for the firsttime. I escaped the pressures of the office and pressing
responsibilities. My wonderful wife, who loves the ocean (not a smart attraction for a redhead), bubbled with contagious excitement.

We had planned to go out to dinner on our last evening. The
restaurant was "Ronnies," a surf and turf spread on Shem Creek.

Heading down 703 from Wild Dunes toward Mt. Pleasant, we encountered a light a different sort than the sunshine we had enjoyed up to that point. It was a blue light on the top of an Isle of Palms city police car.

You know the routine. You check the rear view mirror. While hitting the brake you stare at your speedometer. Then you look for the safest place to pull off the road. "What did I do? What did I do? I wasn't speeding. Did I swerve while trying to see the ocean between the houses lining the shore?"

"May I see your license, registration and insurance, please." The officer at least didn't make me get out of the car or stand by my window with her hand on her automatic. "I pulled you over because you are driving a car with tags that expired in July of 2000. Did you know they had expired?" Well, what do you think? No, didn't know. "Well, you obviously wouldn't lie to me, so I have to take your word for it." It popped out before I could stop myself! She asked, "Do you pay your property taxes?" "Yes, I just paid $300 in property taxes on a car I just bought a month ago." She went back to her car to check.

It is true. I pay my taxes at the last possible moment-but I always pay them. Though the more I thought about it, I did not remember receiving my new tags in the mail as they normally come. Thinking further, I began to doubt if I had ever received my tax notice. My doubt grew as she approached my window with the verdict.

"Well, the computer shows that your car's registration is out of
date. I am going to have to give you a ticket." Warning. . . didn't you mean to say a warning? "However, if you will take care of this and meet me at the court house on July 9th at 5:30 p.m., I will waive the ticket upon seeing the proof." Gee, thanks. There goes a vacation day! "Yes'mam, I will be there. Thank you."

The meal at Ronnie's turned out not to be what we hoped it would (no fault of staff there) and we headed back to the house a little earlier than we had planned. The evening had lost some of its luster.

First thing Monday morning I was standing in line at the auditor's office. Sure enough, I had not paid my taxes. The tax notice had been sent to my old address (never mind I had not lived there for over two years) and was never forwarded to me. Consequently, I never received my tags.

My next stop will be at the DMV. I am dreading more than a trip to the dentist. I'm sure there is some fine they are going to want to slap on me. However, I am going armed with my cell phone and number of my state senator. I will refuse to pay the fine and if they fuss, I will call my senator while they wait. I am not going to pay a fine for their error.

Thankfully, not all is lost. Come July 6th, my wonderful redhead and I will leave the kids with grandmother, put the top down on the convertible and head for the beach. Why not mix some pleasure with business? I'll be tempted to send the hotel bill to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

What is something I have learned from this? Check your tags-and be careful about throwing stones at Jim DeMint for not paying some of his property taxes. Sometimes the stones bounce back.

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