COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Colleton County is raising taxes to help the school district balance its budget, but some residents say that doesn’t do enough to help teachers.
On Monday, Colleton County Council voted to approve a millage increase of 3 mils on property taxes for residents to help the school district. The school district has been actively working to reduce a near $1.1 million deficit for the next fiscal year.
The increase would generate roughly $406,908 that would go towards balancing the Colleton County School District’s budget.
The school district has been trying to find additional funds in their budget to satisfy a state-mandated 4% pay raise for teachers, an increase to employee contribution for retirement, and other district obligations.
Originally, they asked county council for a tax increase of 4 mils but were given the 3 instead. Although some council members say this money would go towards the state-mandated pay raise, others say that’s not necessarily the case.
William Bowman Jr., a Colleton County school board member, says even without the tax hike, the district would still have fulfilled the requirement for the mandate.
He believes this tax increase doesn't do more to help teachers in the district.
“If we were going to do a millage increase, the increase should have at least made our salaries more competitive,” Bowman said. “Instead, the millage increase is going to balance our budget, and we are still going to be deficient in our salaries as compared to neighboring school districts.”
Colleton County Council member Phillip M. Taylor Sr. said the issue is with the state mandates. Since the mandates are unfunded, he believes it becomes a burden for local municipalities that end up having to take on the cost of these raises.
This millage increase is the fourth one for Colleton County residents within the last ten years. Business owners say it's starting to take a toll on them.
“It’s a big effect, especially on small business owners. It’s just crazy.” said Franklin Williams, owner of Pit Stop Barbershop. “We can barely afford what we have now and when everything keeps going up, it’s way too much.”
A spokesperson for the Colleton County School District said they have been actively working on lowering their deficit. The district will come up with a budget proposal to present their school board next week