York County staff proposes property tax hike

dworthington@heraldonline.comMay 8, 2013 

  • Want to go? MONDAY

    Council Chambers, Agriculture Building, 6S. Congress St., York

    5:30 p.m. – Probate Court, Clerk of Court, Registration & Elections

    6 p.m. – Coroner, Master In Equity, Magistrate’s Office

    6:30 p.m. – Public Defender, Solicitor

    7 p.m. – Public Safety Communications, Emergency Management, Risk Management

    MAY 22

    Large Conference Room, Heckle Complex, 1070 Heckle Blvd., Rock Hill

    5:30 p.m. – Veteran Affairs, York County Library, Cultural & Heritage Museums

    6 p.m. – Convention & Visitors Bureau, Ebenezer Park, Summer Feeding Program

    6:30 p.m. – Economic Development, Engineering, Planning,

    7 p.m. – Sheriff’s Office, County Council, County Manager

  • Want to go?

    The York County Council has two more meetings scheduled to work on the 2013-14 budget.

    No action will be taken in these workshop sessions, but they are open to the public.

    For dates and times, see page 4A.

York County’s proposed budget for 2013-2014 could raise the pay of some employees while increasing taxes on all residents.

Employees would be eligible for a 3 percent performance-based pay raise while most homeowners would see their taxes rise by $10 to $12 annually.

Interim County Manager Anna Moore presented a $391 million budget Wednesday for the fiscal year that starts July 1 to fund county operations and capital projects. The budget is a 5.4 percent increase over the current year’s budget.

The general fund, which supports all county departments, is proposed at $96.4 million and includes a 3 percent performance-based raise for the county’s 1,200 employees. The budget would add six full-time workers, mostly in the solicitor’s and public defender’s offices. Those positions are contingent on state funding.

The proposed general fund, however, exceeds anticipated revenues. To balance the budget, Moore has proposed a slight tax increase and taking $10.1 million from the county’s reserve fund.

Owners of a home valued at $100,000 would see their tax bills rise by $8 annually with the changes to the operating budget and debt service tax rates. An owner of a commercial property worth $500,000 would pay $60 annually in additional taxes as proposed.

The owner of a vehicle worth $20,000 would see a $2.40 annual increase in taxes.

More money could be needed from reserves if the County Council does not OK a tax increase. If taxes are not raised and the county continues to see a decrease in revenue from the state, Moore said it might take as much as $12 million from reserves to balance the budget.

Her proposals got mixed reviews from council members.

Board Chairman Britt Blackwell said the county has to pay its debt and he could support a higher increase in the debt service tax. He said he is open to pay raises.

His budget outlook, Blackwell said, is tempered because there are significant projects needed in the county that not only have construction costs but also annual operating costs. Examples of future needs, he said, are expanding the Moss Justice Center and building a multijurisdictional building in the east side of the county.

As envisioned, that facility would have jail cells and courtrooms, as well as office space to be used by York County, Rock Hill and Fort Mill governments. The county is reviewing 14 bids for such a facility.

Councilman Bump Roddey said the county’s budget is getting to the point that a tax increase is justified. He said he could defend the proposed increases to his constituents.

Roddey also said he is open to employee raises. For several years, county employees have gone without any raises.

Councilman Joe Cox echoed Roddey, noting that the proposed tax increase “would not hammer homeowners,” and that the county should look at an employee raise that wouldn’t be offset totally by increased taxes and other costs. Cox asked whether raises could be across the board, rather than merit-based. Councilman Chad Williams said he would prefer the raises be based on merit.

Michael Johnson, the newest member of council and a former Fort Mill school board member, said he supports paying the county debt service, and that is he “leaning” in support of employee raises.

Curwood Chappel, the longest-serving council member, said he would not support raising taxes or increasing pay. He said if the county increases workers’ pay, merchants will simply raises their prices. He said while the tax increase didn’t seem like much, it would make it harder for those without jobs to keep their homes. “We need to economize to save the greatest nation in the world,” he said.

Councilman Bruce Henderson asked if the county could save money by reducing the incentives it offers to induce companies to come York County. He called the incentives “corporate welfare” that reduce the taxes the county collects.

Blackwell said the incentives are the only tool York County has to compete with other localities for businesses. “If you take them away, you can say bye-bye to being business-friendly.”

No votes were taken Wednesday. The county’s budget discussions continue next week as department heads explain their needs to the council.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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