Originally created 06/04/99

Tax raise for school considered



AIKEN -- Aiken Technical College's request for more money could go either way, said an Aiken County Councilman who asked the council to consider the request at a recent budget work session.

"I think it's a tossup," District 4 Councilman Eddie Butler said Thursday.

ATC is asking the county to levy 0.75 mills, or more than $240,000 given the latest value of a mill, to pay for maintenance of the Langley campus.

Like the millage currently collected for the college, it would have no effect on Aiken County's budget, but would be passed directly to taxpayers.

ATC receives three mills for maintenance and requires council approval before receiving any more.

When the college made its plea to the county council in February, it asked for two additional mills during the next 24 years to pay for capital improvements to the campus.

ATC reduced the amount it requested and narrowed the use to maintenance because of communications with the council about how much millage it would support, said Dennis Rogers, vice president of administrative services at the college.

ATC is adding 125,000 square feet to its 180,000-square-foot campus. That expansion will require the college to hire additional staff to maintain the campus, Mr. Rogers said.

The age of the buildings means that they require additional attention, such as new metal doors and water chillers, Mr. Rogers said.

The college is a means of attracting industry to the area and helping to pay for the maintenance is a good investment, said Mr. Butler, who supports the millage increase.

District 3 Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie wants greater assurances about what the money will be spent on before giving her support. During the council's June 2 budget session, she asked for the college to detail in writing its plans for spending the millage increase.

Mrs. McKenzie supports the college, she said Thursday, but when the school was founded, Aiken County agreed to assist with the maintenance, not capital improvements.

"I wanted it in writing," she said. "I think that's a reasonable request. We're not in the business of building buildings."

Todd Bauer covers Aiken County and business issues for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.