School board asks county for 4.41 mill increase in taxes
by The Press and Standard | May 30, 2019 10:59 am
The members of the Colleton County School Board walked into the special budget meeting on May 28 split on the possibility of seeking an increase in property taxes — at the end of the approximately hour-long meeting they’d reached a consensus.
School board members, at the May 21 session, examined a resolution that had the school district asking county council to increase the school district’s millage for the General Fund by a total of 4.41 mills as part of the effort to address the $1.1 million difference between the proposed budget and school district revenue.
After hearing from district officials, the school board (down to six members due to the absence of Patricia Simmons) was split on the resolution. Board members Harry Jenkins, Charles Murdaugh and Sharon Witkin voted yes on the resolution while William Bowman, Tim Mabry and Mary T. Jones cast no votes.
A tied vote meant the resolution was defeated.
In the week between the two sessions, school officials reworked the proposed budget to shrink the $1.1 million difference; some of the cost-cutting predicated by new fiscal information coming out of Columbia.
A series of moves were proposed concerning improvements to the school district, outlined by School Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster and Finance Director Emily Temple, to shave approximately $443,235.
Under the revised plan, the school district will not hire as many elementary school teachers as originally proposed to bring down class sizes; will restore a salary step for the classified staff but not implement a new step; will cut down the amount in the budget to provide additional mental heath support in the schools; and scrap plans to hire two additional school resource officers for the district’s elementary schools.
Dr. Foster told the school board the possible cuts were not enough to erase the entire $1.1 million deficit — which brought the school board members back to the possibility of seeking an increase in the millage for school operations.
When the board revisited the proposed increase in property tax, Mabry, Jones and Simmons joined Jenkins, Murdaugh and Witkin in the yes category. Bowman became the lone no vote.
The same PowerPoint presentation the school members viewed on the evening of May 28 was be used again on May 29, when the school district officials appeared at the Colleton County Council budget workshop to ask council members to approve the 4.41 mill increase.
County Council members, after viewing the presentation and asking a variety of questions, took the request under advisement.
The millage increase would represent the 2.97 mills that the school district is allowed to seek for the next fiscal year and the 1.44 mill increase they were allowed to seek in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
State law caps any millage increase in a formula that is based on population increase and the consumer price index. This fiscal year, the state limited the school district to seeking a maximum of 2.94 mills.
State law also allows a school district to seek the available millage from a previous fiscal year funding formula.
In the previous fiscal year, the state’s millage formula allowed the school district to seek a maximum of 4.44 mill increase. The county council approved a three mill increase in property taxes. That left the 1.44 mills still on the table.
Each operating mill generates $135,636 in revenue for the school district. The 4.41 mills would generate $598,155.
When the state legislature made a major overhaul of school funding aimed at lessening its affect on property owners, the legislation decreed that any increase in operating millage would not be levied against primary residences.
In other words, residents of owner-occupied homes will not see their millage for school operations go up.
Businesses, owners of rental properties and those who own second homes will be the only ones feeling the increase in taxes.