Berkeley County Councilman Josh Whitley

Berkeley County Councilman Josh Whitley

MONCKS CORNER — Berkeley County taxpayers are not likely to get a special note in their tax bills this year with the names and phone numbers of elected officials who voted for a tax hike.

County Council on Monday unanimously passed an $81 million operating budget that does not call for an increase, and the school board is expected to follow suit with its budget on Tuesday.

But customers of Berkeley Water & Sanitation will see an increase of about 15 percent in their water bills next year. That amounts to just over $4 per month on the average residential bill of $38, county officials said.

Last year, County Council passed a budget with 29 separate last-minute amendments, including one that required a note in tax bills listing the names and phone numbers of elected officials who voted for a tax increase. Last year, that was school board members.

“I don’t have any amendments, much less 29,” Finance Committee Chairman Josh Whitley said Monday. “I think we have done a better job over the last year listening to one another and I appreciate that communication increase.”

This is the first year in several that the county has passed its budget before the July 1 start of the fiscal year, Whitley said.

It includes an increase for the EMS department from about $2.55 million last year to $4.5 million this year to add equipment and employees to keep up with growth.

"I can promise you we better see (response) times decrease and service delivered to the people of Berkeley County, because 70 percent increase over last year is kind of unbelievable, to be honest,” Whitley said.

The lone amendment to the budget came from Councilman Tommy Newell, whose motion to add $200,000 to the sheriff’s overtime budget passed, giving Sheriff Duane Lewis $1.3 million total for overtime next year.

With the increase in water fees, “Water pays for water; sewer pays for sewer,” said Water and Sanitation Committee Chairman Kevin Cox. Doing so will also allow the department to build its capital project fund to pay for improvements, he said.

Each year, about $1.8 million is taken from the sewer department to balance the water budget, he said.

Councilman Steve Davis cast the lone vote against the water rate hike.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713. Follow her on Twitter @brindge.