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Aiken County school board approves millage increase

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AIKEN — Aiken County residents could see the effects of a 4.2 millage increase starting in October.

The Aiken County school board voted 8-1 Tuesday to increase the operating tax rate to 135.8 mills. Board member John Wesley Hightower voted against the increase.

Owners of properties including businesses, second residences in the county, rental properties, agricultural, manufacturing, utility properties and owners of vehicles will be affected by the increase.

Businesses, for example, can expect to pay an additional $25.20 per $100,000 for their taxes.

Vehicle owners will not see the increase on vehicle property tax bills until 2013; however, the increase will be included in all other property tax bills sent out starting in October with the exception of primary residences, according to Lisa Westbrook, Aiken County’s deputy auditor.

The operating mill increase will not apply to primary residences because of South Carolina Act 388, which exempts such residences from school operating millage.

The 4.2-mill increase is expected to bring in approximately $1.4 million for the district, said district comptroller Tray Traxler.

Aiken resident Diane Parker spoke out against the millage increase and was disappointed that majority of the board vote in favor of it, she said.

“I think they should be made to live within their budget. They got a 9-mill increase last year,” she said, refering to a tax increase the board approved last June for the debt service millage for the 2011-12 school year. There is no increase in the debt service millage for the 2012-13 school year and it remains at 31.5 mills.

“Their budget is so far out of line its unreal,” she said of the increases.

While the tax increase for school operations is now set, it may be a few days to a couple of weeks before the district’s budget will be finalized and conditionally approved items can take effect since the state legislature has yet to adopt a state budget, said Traxler.

The school board did make a few changes from what was proposed in the tentative budget. The board eliminated the proposed new volunteer coordinator position and decided to make one of the two new educational technology positions a contracted position and pay for it using the fund balance.

MILLAGE INCREASE

Below is the cost to taxpayers, by category, with the approval of the 4.2-operating mill increase:

• Primary residences, 4 percent assessment rate: $0

• Agricultural (private), 4 percent assessment rate: $16.80 per $100,000

• Other real property such as businesses, second residences, rental property and agricultural, 6 percent property: $25.20 per $100,000

• Cars, trucks, RVs, motorcycles, 6 percent assessment rate: $2.52 per $10,000

• Manufacturing and utility properties, 10.5 percent assessment rate: $44.10 per $100,000

• Boat, 10.5 percent assessment rate: $4.41 per $10,000

Source: Aiken County Public Schools


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