Charleston homeowners can expect to see their property taxes increase next fall.
Charleston City Council gave first approval on Tuesday night to the 2021 budget, which includes a $24 to $72 increase in property taxes, depending on the size of the house and whether it is rented out or owner-occupied.
In Charleston and Berkeley counties:
Tax on a $300,000 owner-occupied home would increase $24 next year.
Tax on a $300,000 rented home would increase $36 next year.
Tax on a $600,000 owner-occupied home would increase $48 next year.
Tax on a $600,000 rented home would increase $72 next year.
In two weeks, City Council is expected to vote on the second and the final readings of the budget and set a tax rate for next year.
While sitting as the Ways and Means Committee, council passed the budget in a 7-6 vote. Council members Marie Delcioppo, Kevin Shealy, Jason Sakran, Karl Brady, Mike Seekings and Harry Griffin voted against the budget.
In the council meeting, Brady said he voted against the budget because it didn't include pay cuts for staff.
"There's people here on council who've had their jobs affected," Brady said. "I work for a nonprofit, we've taken it on the chin on the budget. Even MUSC during the height of the pandemic when they canceled their profitable service lines, my wife had to take a 15 percent pay cut, the executives took a 20 percent pay cut. Those are frontline workers at the hospital treating COVID patients and if we've asked them to sacrifice and our nonprofit folks have had to sacrifice, the service industry's been decimated. To not ask the city to do the same thing, I think, is something that the public is looking at and watching."
Griffin, who said he would donate his $17,500 salary to the city next year, is encouraging taxpayers to consider signing a petition to secede from the city. On Tuesday night, his online petition garnered over 400 signatures. If it doesn't reach 1,000 signatures before the next budget vote, Griffin said he'd remove it and give up the effort.
The budget does not include a $5 million cut to the Charleston Police Department despite repeated requests from the ACLU's Charleston People's Budget Coalition. Instead, it includes $158,000 for the department to buy new body cameras.
The budget differs from the one discussed over the past few weeks, because taxpayers will receive 100 percent of property tax relief funding through the Local Option Sales Tax. Normally, city taxpayers receive a rebate on their property tax bills through Local Option Sales Tax money. Local Option Sales Tax, or LOST money, usually softens the blow of city taxes.
Previously, council considered withholding some of that money to offset an estimated $18 million revenue shortfall next year and setting a higher tax rate.
Last week, council gave itself approval to withhold that LOST money. Council members Shealy, Sakran, Seekings, Griffin and Delcioppo voted against that measure.
Instead, the budget reduces employee overtime by $1 million and delays the opening of the Daniel Island recreation center and W. L. Stephens Aquatic Center in West Ashley to July 1.
The city has not received any federal coronavirus-related relief funding. If that funding becomes available, several council members said they would change the tax rate back to its earlier proposal.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a funding package that would have granted $38 million in relief funds for Charleston this year and $18 million next year.
The amount of money allotted for the police department's purchase of body cameras has been corrected.