Bowers opposes tax hike in SDPC budget proposal

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

COUNTY — Although Pickens County School Board trustee Phillip Bowers favors giving out pay raises in the upcoming fiscal year, he opposes a proposed one-mill tax increase that appears set to take effect in July.

“I was more puzzled than anything,” Bowers said. “Our revenues are up more than $1 million due to growth or economic activity. Plus, we got $40 million from the federal government to help with education just in Pickens County and,

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Mill impact

District spokesman Darian Byrd said the proposed increase does not apply to a homeowner’s residence or 4 percent property.

Byrd added a one-mill increase on a $100,000 6 percent property would be $6 more per year. On a vehicle appraised at $9,000, a mill increase would amount to 54 additional cents per year, and on rental property appraised at $75,000, a mill would mean $4.50 more per year.

Byrd said the state establishes a maximum millage increase school districts can raise each year based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index, plus the growth in population in the school district’s county.

Bowers maintains the school district should live within its means.

“The taxpayers have been very good to the school district, and we’ve made enormous progress the last seven years, and I don’t feel we should reward the taxpayers for all they’ve done with a tax increase,” Bowers said. “The $40 million we got from the federal government (for COVID-19 relief), there are restrictions, but it’s a tremendous amount of money to help with a lot of things in the classroom over the next two to three years. That’s why I’m puzzled they would ask for a tax increase given all the money coming into the district.”

While acknowledging the tax increase is a few dollars per year for every vehicle in the county, and the board has previously approved a tax increase once in the past 18 years, Bowers said that still doesn’t justify the decision.

“There’s never a good time for a tax increase, but certainly not when you have over a million dollars in economic growth coming in and $40 million from the federal government,” Bowers said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me to raise taxes on folks. The other thing is the rental properties, commercial properties and businesses, this is going to fall on them, and they’ve already had a tough year.”

Three readings are required before the proposed budget is final. The final reading is scheduled to take place at 8 a.m. Friday at the school district’s office in Easley. If approved, the budget will go into effect July 1 and run through June 30, 2022.

Local conservative activist Johnnelle Raines said a tax hike protest is planned outside the school district office before the 8 a.m. meeting on Friday, organized and promoted by Conservatives of the Upstate and the S.C. Freedom Action Network.