“My job is to provide you with a balanced budget to vote on,” Cheraw Mayor Andy Ingram told members of Cheraw Town Council Tuesday evening. As it stands, he said, “It is not balanced.”
The current proposed budget is $370,000 short of balancing, he said. The question is, “Do we go back and try to cut that much, or do we raise the millage?” said Ingram.
With one member of council absent from the meeting, Councilman Fred Harris, the preliminary show of hands on yeah or nay to higher taxes was split right down the middle. Council members indicating they did not see a feasible way of cutting that much money from the budget and would favor a millage increase of some degree were John K. Melton, Reid McBride and Andy Ingram.
Council members indicating they would not vote to raise Cheraw’s property taxes were Randy Butler, Billy Wallace Jr., and Jacqueline Ellerbe-Shannon.
Most of the discussions over the budget have taken place in a series of work sessions over the past couple of weeks. An official vote for the first reading of the budget is not scheduled until May 14.
“Give it back to the department heads and have them make the cuts,” was Councilman Butler’s wish. Others, such as Councilman Melton, said they hardly saw that becoming a reality, indicating they had already slashed budgets to the bone.
Butler suggested perhaps there could be cuts to personnel and Councilwoman Ellerbe-Shannon asked about the possibilities of employee furloughs.
“I would hate to balance this budget on the backs of furloughs,” said Ingram.
Ingram asked Butler, “Just where would you begin to cut personnel, Randy?”
Butler’s reply centered again on taking the budget back to the department heads again. “I think we need to make that decision. That’s what we were elected for,” said Ingram.
“I think we should let the taxpayers know we’ve done all we can,” said McBride, in an effort to both reduce the operating expenses and avoid raising taxes.
The last millage increase for the town was issued for the fiscal year 2008-09, when it was taken to 122.2 mills. In 2010-11 the millage dropped to 118.46. According to Cheraw Town Clerk Tina Ellerbe there are laws that determine and limit how much millage can be raised in a year’s time. The millage increase increments can accumulate over a two or three year period if not used. Currently, the town has the ability to raise the levy by 19 mills. However, if they don’t take advantage of all 19 mills, and next year find they are still short, they cannot go back and pick up any accumulated mills. We would then be back to a one year increment, said Ellerbe.
“The town is a service oriented organization,” said Ingram. “For example, the recreation department is not a money maker, it’s a quality of life issue. It’s hard to put a dollar value on that. But programs such as that are why we all enjoy living in Cheraw. I think the citizens are willing to pay for that.”
An increase of just 10 mills would increase the property taxes on a home valued at $100,000 by $40 a year.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: The original article had an error that has been corrected. This article is the correct version. We apologize for the mistake.