The tax increase of 8 mills approved by members of Chesterfield County Council last month will generate roughly $800,000 in new revenue for the county budget that would otherwise fall short of operating expenses next year. The increase will mean an extra $30 from the taxpayer’s pocket on a property valued at $100,000.
The county’s millage rate stood at 308.82 for 2013. The increase will take it to 316.82. According to the South Carolina Association of Counties, the average millage rate for the state is 298.7.
The tax increase did not come without debate. The vote was 5-4, with Chesterfield County Council Chairman Matt Rivers breaking the tie. In fact, the debate continued after the vote.
Chesterfield County Councilman Douglas Curtis, who voted against it, said, “It looks like we’re spending more than we’re taking in. How did we get here?”
“It started about 25 years ago,” said Council Finance Chairman Crawford Moore, “when council was robbing Peter to pay Paul and tapping into the reserve.”
According to levy sheets from the Chesterfield County Auditor’s Office, the tax rate for county residents has increased by nearly a third since 1999, as records show the millage rate then stood at 192.89.
“We certainly don’t want to get back to where we were a few years ago, where they won’t take our credit card,” said Curtis. “But raising taxes is not the answer.”
“We’ve got to stop spending money we don’t have,” said Councilman Al Johnson.
Councilman Eddie Rivers said, “we need to find other sources of revenue.”
“I feel we should go back and look for areas in the budget to save money,” said Eddie Rivers. “Moore said the staff has done a remarkable job of that already and we’re down to the bone.”
Moore said the practice of borrowing money for operations will “come back to bite us. We need to be responsible on our part to stop borrowing money.”
— Reach Staff Writer Karen Kissiah at 843-537-5261.