District plans 3 percent tax increase
The Georgetown County School Board approved a 3.5-mill property tax increase to fund raises for employees in the coming year and increase salaries in the future. That’s a rise of 3 percent.
The proposal is due for a public hearing later this month.
The increase was well under the limit on property tax increases imposed on local government under state law. It will bring in an additional $1.3 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The district’s total operating budget is $97.2 million.
A mill is equal to $1 of tax for every $100,000 of assessed property value. Residential property is exempt from tax for school operations, so the tax will fall primarily on commercial property, including second homes.
The district could raise the rate by 11.5 mills because it didn’t use the allowable millage increases in the past two years.
Lisa Johnson, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and technology, presented four proposals on Tuesday. The largest proposed millage increase was 9.5 mills.
The proposal that the board seemed to settle on would require a 4.9-mill increase.
Board Member Bill Gaskins, who represents District 5, expressed concern about the effect a large millage increase would have on local businesses that are still recovering from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of them are struggling,” Gaskins said.
Board Member Patti Hammel, who represents District 1, suggested the district could use a different source to fund a “catch-up” raise for teachers who missed an increase a few years ago during a budget shortfall caused by the great recession.
Johnson said that would shave 1.4 mills off the proposed increase. The board then approved the 3.5-mill increase.
Along with raises for all employees, the district plans to increase salary schedules, award rural school retention bonuses and increase athletic stipends.
The last time the district raised the operating millage rate was for the 2019 budget.
The legislature is still working on the state budget, so the district has no idea how much state funding it will get. Once the final amount is official, the board may have to amend the budget in July, Johnson said.
The hearing on the budget is June 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the Beck Center.