Supporters of North Charleston’s $99.9 million spending plan said they are surprised that a proposed property tax increase is being criticized, because the city raised the tax four times that much last year and little objection was heard.
“I just don’t understand it,” said Councilman Ed Astle, who joined Mayor Keith Summey in an 8-2 vote advancing the budget at a City Council meeting Thursday.
Astle’s comment came after a Councilman Dwight Stigler became the second to vote against the budget, joining Bobby Jameson, who had objected to the plan previously.
Stigler said the planned tax increase is small enough, raising less than $500,000, that the city should be able to do without it in a $99.9 million budget. And with all the things the city spends money on, he wasn’t buying Summey’s explanation that the tax was needed to hire more firefighters.
“In my opinion, we cannot attribute the tax increase to a few specific things,” Stigler said.
Jameson, at a previous meeting, noted that the tax increase would raise about the same amount of money that the city gives away to nonprofit groups, and he objected on that basis.
Summey said the city is adding employees, including a dozen firefighters and staff for a new park, in order to provide services city residents want or need. Also, he said employees deserve raises, insurance costs are rising, the state has been shifting expenses to municipalities, and the city is growing, causing a need for more community centers, more public works vehicles, and so on.
“I think it’s a fit budget,” the mayor said. “The challenge will be the next two years, when we have committed to having no tax increase, and will have positions to fill.”
For city residents, the property tax increase in the coming budget would mean another $6 a year for someone with a home worth $150,000, bringing the city’s bill to $570. The tax is 50 percent higher for commercial and rental properties, because of the way property is taxed in South Carolina.
Councilwoman Dot Williams was absent the meeting.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552.