Beaufort County officials optimistic school tax increase will be blunted

cconley@islandpacket.comJuly 18, 2012 

  • In other action, the Beaufort County Council Finance Committee:

  • approved the purchase of a new $28,000 truck for the county's mosquito control program. The vehicle will replace a 1998 model with about 118,000 miles. Final council approval is expected Monday.

    • was briefed by county staff on a $10 million credit line secured from Bank of America for use during natural disasters. If a serious disaster strikes, the county could use the money to cover costs until state or federal disaster funds arrive, according to David Starkey, the county's chief financial officer.

Beaufort County officials are optimistic the property tax increase they approved as part of the school district's 2012-13 budget will be less than anticipated.

Just how much remains unclear.

The $177.9 million budget approved June 25 includes $1.8 million for about 7,600 iPads for students in grades six through 12. It also eliminates 30 positions and calls for a 2 percent pay raise for teachers.

In its current form, the spending plan would increase property taxes on a non-owner occupied home valued at $250,000 by about $30 a year.

But in recent days, several variables involving state funding to local schools have been resolved. The S.C. House and Senate voted this week to override Gov. Nikki Haley's line-item veto of $10 million to help local districts pay for teacher raises. That protects about $291,000 in state aid to the district to fund the increases.

Meanwhile, the budget state lawmakers approved earlier this month includes an additional $2.2 million in aid to the local district. That increase was not vetoed by Haley. School officials have pledged to use as much of those extra funds as possible to reduce the tax impact.

Between the higher state aid and other positive signs, at least one county councilman thinks the tax increase could fall by at least half or disappear altogether.

"At least from my point of view, I think there is a very good chance that we can get through this without having a tax increase," Councilman Jerry Stewart said Wednesday after the Finance Committee meeting.

Councilman and panel chairman Stu Rodman also expects a drop in the tax increase but said it was too soon to say by how much.

Indeed, the final figure won't be known until the school board submits its revised budget to county council. School board chairman Fred Washington Jr. said Wednesday that might not happen for another week or so.

"What we anticipate is hearing officially what the numbers are, and getting them in, and hopefully next week we will have all that vetted by the state Department of Education," Washington said. "Then we will be ready to go to council (with the revised budget)."

County Council has established a Sept. 1 deadline to set the tax rate.

Related content

  1. Council approves school district's budget, tax increase, June 26, 2012
  2. More state money should mean lower tax rate hike, July 10, 2012

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