Landrum passes first tax hike in 23 years

Published 12:37 pm Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Landrum City Council approved Tuesday night a budget that includes the first tax increase for the citys property owners in 23 years.

A 4-3 vote of the council approved a balanced budget of $1,549,800 and a 1-mil tax increase for property owners for the 2010-11 fiscal year. The increase will be approximately $4 on a $100,000 residence and $10 on a $250,000 owner-occupied home.

The millage rate now stands at 73.9 mils. The last such tax increase occurred in 1987.

This was a tough vote because this is not a time that you want to raise taxes, said Landrum Mayor Robert Briggs. We have to look toward the future, and it was either that (raise the property tax) or start to cut services.

But nobody likes to pass tax increases during these economic times.

Briggs, Don Smith, Billy Inman and Randy Wohnig voted to approve the budget. Jon Matheis, Joyce Whitesides and Jan Horton voted against it.

There was no public comment on the increase when time was allotted.

The budget also includes a provision for the purchase of a police car pending the outcome of a grant application.

If the grant is approved, well get a new car, said Landrum City Administrator Steve Wolochowicz. If we dont get the grant, well look for a used vehicle.

Wolochowicz said he expects the millage-rate increase to generate $12,000-$15,000 for the city.

The accepted $1.55 million budget actually includes a 9.4 decrease in revenue and a 4.76 decrease in expenditures.

While the costs of operating the city have continued to rise, Briggs said it has become increasingly difficult for municipalities in South Carolina to raise funds because of a state law recently passed by legislators that limits the amount of tax increases that can be levied by municipalities. S.C. Act 388 limits millage-rate increases to 1 mil per year.

Everything has gone up insurance, wages everything, said Briggs. Act 388 really ties our hands.

In other action, the council voted unanimously to revise its drug-testing policy on the advice of legal counsel. Under the previous policy, all employees of the city were part of a random drug-testing program. Under the newly adopted policy, only employees of the citys public-safety division will be randomly drug tested.

Also, Police Chief Bruce Shelnut reported to council that his department has received a $25,560 grant to purchase new SLED (S.C. Law Enforcement Division) reporting software to replace the 10-year-old obsolete software currently being used by the department.