Berkeley County taxpayers are not likely to see a tax hike next year if the proposed budget is passed, but it does include a raise for employees.
Despite being $4 million more than last year's budget, the $85 million spending plan recommended by Supervisor Bill Peagler and passed at Monday’s council meeting does not include a tax increase. It also does not require the county to dip into its savings.
"We've had some healthy growth and that does well for us," said Deputy Supervisor Tim Callanan said.
The taxes on an owner-occupied $250,000 home are about $2,900 before rebates for school taxes and the local option sales tax.
The budget provides a 3 percent pay increase for employees starting in January and adds 13 new positions throughout the county, including five new employees for the soon-to-be-opened Cane Bay library.
“This was one of the most difficult budgets to create in recent memory,” Callanan said. “We had to make some tough decisions, and we had to request to our departments that they tighten their belts.”
Like last year’s budget, this year continues to put an emphasis on public safety, Callanan said. It includes three replacement ambulances and 21 replacement vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office.
The budget also allocates funds for an ambulance in the town of Moncks Corner, which, in turn, will allow an ambulance to be placed at Bonneau Beach.
“We were able to accomplish our goal while holding the line on spending,” Peagler said. “I’m proud to say our annual operating expenses decreased by 1 percent. This allows us to deploy more resources to where they’re most needed.”
Balancing last year’s $81 million budget included using about $4.7 million from the county’s fund balance, but the county has spent about $1 million less than expected.
A separate $67.9 million budget for Berkeley County’s Water and Sanitation also does not include a tax increase, even though it includes major investments in water and sewer infrastructure.
Last year, those customers saw a 15 percent increase in their water bills, or about $4 per month on the average residential bill of $38.
Additional readings before the budgets are finalized are expected to come before the council on May 29 and on June 11 or 25.