In Kershaw County, where taxpayers are typically tight-fisted, little protest is being made about a 13 percent increase in property taxes to run county government.

It would be the biggest tax rate increase for county operations in recent years, administrator Gordon Hartwig said.

This does not include expected raises in school taxes, which could be submitted by the county school board as early as next week.

The county budget will be up for a second public hearing and final approval tonight.

Nobody spoke against the tax and spending increase at last week’s public hearing. Kershaw County Council member Tom Cooper said taxpayers are understanding.

“I think people realize that what we’re trying to do is good for the county,” Cooper said.

Hartwig said, “Folks are understanding that we’re getting our financial house in order. The council’s invited the public to speak at two hearings, and none spoke out.”

The budget increase is fueled by two main factors, he said. One is spending $700,000 to give new industries tax incentives. Another is the higher cost of services, especially in law enforcement, to serve a growing county.

Instead of raising taxes the past two years to pay for incentives for new industries, the council took the money from reserve funds.

“But that’s an investment,” Cooper said. “We’ll get that money back over time.”

The tax increase will pay for 13 new jobs, including five jailers, three recycle center workers, two sheriff’s deputies, a county engineer, a court clerk and a full-time fire fighter in the Blaney Fire Department (Elgin), and new operating costs for the Elgin Branch Library.

Other new items in the budget also include new and replacement sheriff’s patrol cars.

The extent of increases in school taxes depends on final education funding levels approved by the General Assembly this week.

Hartwig said a preliminary recommendation by Kershaw County school officials would increase local taxes slightly, by about 5 mills.

That would add another $20 bill to the owner of a $100,000 home.

County Council also will have to approve the school budget, but that document won’t be submitted before next week, Hartwig said.

Kershaw County budget

Three measures to reflect a proposed tax increase to run Kershaw County government. School taxes are not included.

Current Proposed

* Amount (in millions)

$12 $13.1

* Tax rate

68.1 mills 76.9 mills

* Taxes on $100,000 house

$272.40 $307.60

Source: Kershaw County

Council, auditor

June 22, 1999  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
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