Columbus, Saluda lead tax base growth; Tryon well behind

Published 4:20 pm Monday, June 8, 2009

Towns and counties have been instructed by the Institute of Government to determine the tax rate needed to bring in the same revenue as in the current fiscal year, prior to the revaluation, and then add the average annual percentage increase from tax base improvements.

If they don&squo;t add the growth factor, they lose additional property tax revenue that they would see from new construction and development in a non-revaluation year.

For towns such as Columbus and Saluda that have been growing steadily, the additional revenue is significant. In Saluda, the percentage for growth adds about $80,000 in revenue. In Columbus it&squo;s about $43,000.

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In Tryon, it&squo;s only about $8,000.&bsp; Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples says the growth rate confirms his statements that Tryon&squo;s revenue growth is lagging well behind its expenditure growth, even if the town doesn&squo;t increase spending. He notes that the rate of inflation normally is more than twice the rate of Tryon&squo;s tax base growth.

The county, which has a much larger tax base and budget, has seen steady growth, which has helped it keep pace with inflation and build up its fund balance or reserves. But the county has had to start drawing down those reserves and now stands to lose about $755,000 in property tax revenue if it doesn&squo;t include the growth rate.

Managers in each of the towns say the additional funding is particularly critical this year when the towns are facing steep declines in some revenue sources, such as sales tax, due to the economy.

But some local elected officials have been reluctant to include the growth factor, citing the burden on taxpayers who are already struggling with the economy. The elected boards in both Columbus and Saluda rejected budget proposals with the growth rate, and are now looking at ways to cut spending.

Saluda has a budget worksession planned for Monday, while Columbus is planning one on Thursday. The local governments must determine new tax rates and new budgets prior to July 1.