FILE - Myrtle Beach

South Carolina's Myrtle Beach

(The Center Square) – Nearly 5.12 million people are living in South Carolina, a 10.7% increase since 2010 and the nation’s 10th-highest decennial population growth, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Despite being among the nation’s top 10 states in population growth over the past decade, South Carolina – now the nation’s 23rd most-populous state – fell just shy of adding an eighth U.S. House seat.

As a result, South Carolina’s congressional districts will be less populous than those in most other states. The state’s seven congressional districts will average 732,102 residents compared with the national district average of 761,169, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The pattern of growth across the Palmetto State in the past decade exemplifies a national trend documented by the census: while urban and suburban areas grew, populations in rural areas declined nationwide. In South Carolina, 24 rural counties have fewer residents now than they did in 2010.

South Carolina’s growth since 2010 occurred almost exclusively in 11 counties on the coast and clustered around suburban Charlotte, N.C., according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to a breakdown by the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) of census-based state funding allocated to the Local Government Fund (LGF), only those 11 counties will see increases in annual funding through 2031.

Horry County, where fast-growing Myrtle Beach is located, gained the most in LGF allocations, an additional $2.1 million, which roughly amounts to 1% of the county’s overall funding.

Berkeley County gained the second-most in census-based state funding, an additional $1.33 million yearly; about 1.3% of the county’s annual budget.

While the LGF constitutes a relatively small revenue stream for local governments in urban areas, the funding is important in many counties struggling with withered tax bases and winnowing populations.

Because of stagnant or declines in populations over the past decade, 35 of the state’s 46 counties will see less census-based state funding from the LGF, beginning this month.

Orangeburg County lost the most in annual funding because of population declines: $738,550. Florence County will see $590,434 less in yearly LGF allocations. Several counties that grew in population, including Richland and Oconee counties, will see their annual LGF money shaved back because their growth did not keep pace with the state’s overall growth.

Anticipating the trend and potential shortfalls in LGF allocations to small, rural counties, the South Carolina General Assembly included $17.92 million in “full funding” to the LGF and $10 million to a newly created Rural County Stabilization Fund.

Under Rural County Stabilization Fund provisions, any county that has a population growth, as determined by the 2020 Census, of less than 5.35% since the 2010 Census shall be eligible to receive monies from the fund.

Under the program, Florence County will receive $500 million, dramatically reducing its “lost” revenues through the LGF to about $90,000 a year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. census in 2020 was extended, resulting in subsequent delays in posting results and developing funding plans and beginning redistricting.

Therefore, instead of the new LGF regime going into place for the next 10 years in July, the traditional start when the state begins its fiscal year, the revised allocations didn’t go into effect until Oct. 1, which is the start of many local governments’ fiscal years.