Berkeley County Supervisor Bill Peagler is proposing a tax increase for several reasons.
Tim Callanan, deputy supervisor for finance, explains, “we had to absorb about 2.5 million dollars of obligations from the previous administration into the general fund budget. Then of course, you have a $3 million shortfall for state-mandated services that they are no longer paying us for.”
So the county is proposing an increase in property taxes to make up the difference, and add additional employees in public safety that they say are greatly needed.
The 5 mill increase will cost property owners an average of about $30 more per year.
We talked with Councilman Tommy Newell about the proposal. “I just don’t like raising taxes. As a taxpayer myself, I never liked it.”
He’s not ready to approve the tax increase, yet. “There’s a lot of us that’s not going to vote for it as it is. I didn’t vote for it in committee.”
But he say says he does like how it will raise county employee salaries 5%.
It will also put four new deputies on the roads. Major Anthony Phyall at the sheriff’s office says that will help with things like lowering response times. “What that would greatly enhance is each individual squad out there. Here again, you’re adding back up where it is needed. You’re adding quick response times to the communities in Berkeley County.”
Eight new detention center officers at the jail would be added. Detention Center Director Randy Demory says, “Berkeley County Detention Center is kind of a violent place.”
The new officers will allow the county to begin using the third floor of the new jail, providing more space for the 250 inmates. Currently, “in a single cell, where the state mandates it’s only used for maximum custody of one person, it’s not uncommon for us to have three maximum custody males in there.”
Four new EMS employees will be added to allow 12 hour shifts instead of 24 hour shifts. That’s an issue that Gene Cribb, owner of Music Man BBQ in Moncks Corner, knows the importance of personally. Four years ago he had a heart attack at a Berkeley High School
Football game. “They didn’t have an EMS unit there. And it took 45 minutes for them to get an EMS unit there and take me on.”
He hopes adding EMS staff might help in situations like that. “The response time will be a lot quicker. Unfortunately for me it wasn’t then. But I would have loved to have had it back then.”
Callanan says water rates and solid waste user fees will also need to be increased in the future.
County council is scheduled to vote on the budget proposal at their next meeting, June 22nd.