Charleston County is considering a financial maneuver that could leave most property owners with no increase in their tax bills later this year, even as the county raises about $6 million in new taxes.
The new budget proposal from County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor, laid out briefly at the end of a committee meeting Thursday, would offset a planned increase in property taxes with a credit against the county's annual solid waste fee. The waste fee is included in property tax bills.
If it sounds like taking with one hand and giving back with another, that's because Pryor's plan would do just that.
The increase in property tax revenues would help the county pay its day-to-day bills, while the temporary credit on waste fees would reduce revenues for the county's solid waste fund balance, which is flush with money and can be spent only on waste-related purposes.
The credit idea is aimed at addressing criticism of the county's proposed tax increase, which would raise the typical property tax bill by about $25 a year. The county has been searching for revenue to maintain services as it cuts spending for the third year in a row.
Pryor's plan calls for giving a temporary $25 credit against the annual $99 solid waste fee included on residential property tax bills. Commercial properties that pay higher waste fees would get proportionately larger credits.
"What this does is make the average taxpayer whole," Pryor said.
Those with above-average property values would still end up paying a higher tax bill this year, those with lower-than-average property values could pay a few dollars less than before, and most people would see little change.
If the waste fee credit is approved by council, the solid waste fund balance would still be worth around $31 million next year.
County Council is expected to consider the plan Tuesday as part of the ongoing budget talks. The council has already given preliminary approval for the budget, which includes the property tax increase and a related decrease in property tax credits funded by the local option sales tax.
Several council members, particularly Joe McKeown and Dickie Schweers, have been outspoken in their opposition to raising taxes by any amount. McKeown was not at the committee meeting Thursday, and Schweers, who was there, objected that the waste fee credit idea was announced with little notice.
Reach David Slade at937-5552 or email@example.com.