Landrum plans first millage rate hike since 1987

Published 12:59 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Landrum residents may see a slightly higher property tax bill this year if the city goes ahead with plans for its first millage rate hike in 23 years.

Landrum City Administrator Steven Wolochowicz is proposing a 1 mil increase for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The increase is needed, he says, to offset the loss of revenue from the state.

The city receives $70,000 from the state through the Local Government Fund, but the state has cut the fund in recent years, and some officials speculate it may be eliminated completely at some point.

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The city might consider a larger millage rate increase to make up for the loss, but state Act 388 limits local governments to a 1 mil increase per year.

“I anticipate this would generate approximately $12,000 to $15,000,” says Wolochowicz. “This is not much but over time it will help. Unfortunately, South Carolina towns and cities have few options when it comes to raising revenue.”

Wolochowicz says the 1 mil rate hike would increase taxes on owner-occupied homes by about $4 for a home valued at $100,000, $6 for one valued at $150,000, $8 for one valued at $200,000 and $10 for one at $250,000.

“No one wants to pay additional taxes, yet at the same time no one wants to see a reduction in city services,” says Wolochowicz. “If we do not obtain additional revenue in the near future we will have no choice but to reduce the services that the city of Landrum provides our citizens today.”

Wolochowicz says revenue from the state may be declining at a time when insurance and fuel&bsp; costs are rising. The city also faces needs for police, fire and grounds maintenance activities, he says.

“The city of Landrum has been more fortunate than many local governments in that we have not experienced any cutbacks in public safety or other city services,” says Wolochowicz. “During my tenure with the city, the size of our organization has remained unchanged.

“Our objective continues to be to focus on basic city services and to insure that our expenditures do not exceed our revenues and as a result, our millage rate has remained the same since 1987.”

The city is estimating that it will finish fiscal year 2010 with $1,751,001 in revenue and $1,665,300 in expenses.

For fiscal year 2011, Wolochowicz is proposing a budget balanced at $1,585,985, a decrease of 9.4 percent in revenue and 4.76 percent in expenses.

The city administrator says he proposed the rate hike after receiving instruction from city council to create a budget “equal in size to our current budget.”

He says the proposed budget does not include salary increases for staff or city council, “although a modest cost-of-living increase for all staff may be implemented at the end of the fiscal year provided the council is satisfied that our revenue predictions have been met.”

If the rate hike is approved, the city’s millage would increase from 72.9 to 73.9 mils. The millage rate is equivalent to the tax per $1,000 of assessed value.

The Landrum City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the fiscal year 2011 budget on Tuesday, September 14.