MONCKS CORNER -- Berkeley County residents won't see any tax increases under the proposed new budget, but some higher fees are possible in the coming months.
Council discussed several possibilities in a workshop Wednesday.
Supervisor Dan Davis noted that taxpayers are subsidizing Berkeley County EMS $2.9 million in the proposed budget. He's studying how much to raise the cost of an ambulance ride, which varies according to mileage and procedures performed. The increase would be more in line with Dorchester County, which charges twice as much but breaks even, he said.
Insurance companies normally pick up the cost of an ambulance call, but 41 percent of those who needed EMS in Berkeley County last year were uninsured, Finance Director Kace Smith said.
Residents also may face a new stormwater fee. County Engineer Frank Carson recommended that council decide how much to start charging residents to pay for the county's cost of meeting federal clean-water mandates.
Dorchester and Charleston counties charge stormwater fees, as do many local municipalities, he noted.
Berkeley County's proposed budget assumes the county will collect $350,000 from stormwater fees to help pay for the cost of the program. Council would decide the fee, which might cost residents $24 to $36 a year, Carson said. The county would not bill residents who already pay municipal stormwater fees, he said.
The county also would like to be able to increase the $10 property transfer fee, but that would require a change in state law, and the Realtors Association always has fought an increase, Davis said. Processing each transfer costs the county about $30, and the county processes about 60,000 a year, Davis said.
"We're losing a serious amount of money," he said.
The Sheriff's Office shows the biggest increase in the proposed budget. That's because the budget includes 10 new detention officers to staff a jail expansion, Smith said.
A $2.8 million capital improvement fund would be paid for with 29 percent of the county's penny sales-tax money rebate, a practice that several council members have unsuccessfully opposed the last few years.
Councilman Tim Callanan called the county not giving the money back to taxpayers "the jarring issue that divides a lot of us council." He urged council to agree to put any extra money beyond the revenues predicted in the budget into an escrow account that would be refunded to taxpayers next year. The proposal didn't get any action Wednesday.
The budget is scheduled for final approval next month.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.