Charleston County School District approves tax increase

During Monday’s meeting, the Charleston County School District approved a tax increase. This is another way the district is trying to recover from its $18 million budget shortfall last year. The Charleston County Auditor tells News 2 the tax is for all property other than primary homes, things like cars, boats, and commercial and rental properties. Business owners News 2 spoke to today say they can’t afford another tax hike.

Allison Hanf, part owner of Norm’s Pizza and Subs, says, “By raising taxes, you are driving out the mom-and-pop stores. All we do is work to pay bills.”

Norm’s opened in downtown Charleston nearly 40 years ago and they say this millage rate increase on top of other tax hikes could put them out of business.

Hanf says, “I feel like the school board should be responsible to pay the gap that they’re having. I don’t think the taxes need to go up when all this money keeps going missing.”

The Charleston County School Board is increasing the millage rate by 9.6 mills, which is a $576 increase for a $1 million property. This is to close a $20 million budget gap that was in the proposed budget for next school year.

School Board Member, Kate Darby, says, “By doing that, we were able to fund our literacy program, we were able to add back some Assistant Principal positions that had been eliminated, add in student concern specialists, so there were really important pieces of educating our kids that needed to be in the budget.”

Business owners say there has to be another way.

Hanf says, “Raising taxes isn’t solving our problem. Spending, cut back on spending.”

The Board says this comes in addition to cuts across the district.

Darby says, “I think for the most part businesses will see this as an investment in their future because if they hire people in any way, shape, or form, they want those kids to be prepared.”

The Charleston County School District’s budget shortfall means many of these business owners have lost faith in their money management.

Hanf says, “It’s like a used car, you can only fix a used car so many times, then you just go out and get a new one. Maybe we need a whole new school board. Maybe we need someone to oversee our school board to see what exactly they are doing with all this money, because if I had a clunker, I wouldn’t keep throwing money at it.”

Darby says, “The staff that’s responsible for those, let’s say those mistakes, or the budget mismanagement, they’re not at the district any more. And the staff that’s there now is working really hard at fixing those mess ups.”

Kate Darby says businesses are welcome to reach out to her and she will meet with them to explain the need for this millage rate increase. That increase will start this July, along with the new budget, and is scheduled to end in three years.

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