Charleston City Council Gives Initial Approval of $ 254 Million Budget with Tax Hikes and Salary Hikes | New

To deal with a $ 3.9 million shortfall and increased staff turnover, Charleston City Council approved a tax increase.

On December 7, Council put forward a general budget proposal of $ 254 million that is funded, in part, by an increase in property taxes. The Council’s final vote on the proposed budget and tax rate will take place on December 21. It represents an 8½ percent increase over the approved budget of $ 234 million the previous year.

Here are examples of how much taxes would increase in Charleston and Berkeley counties next year:

  • $ 42 on an owner-occupied home of $ 350,000.
  • $ 63 on a rented house for $ 350,000.
  • $ 60 on a $ 500,000 owner-occupied house.
  • $ 90 on a rented house for $ 500,000.

With the increase in vacancies, Charleston officials plan to use the tax increase to lower the minimum wage for city employees to $ 14 an hour and offer all employees 4 to 7 increases. % next year.

The city’s wage delay was starting to be reflected in employee retention, Charleston CFO Amy Wharton told council members at the city’s final budget workshop on Nov. 16. turnover.

“We have a lot of people leaving town,” Wharton said. “When you ask HR, they say the most notable reason is the salary. ”

Mayor John Tecklenburg said at the December 7 meeting that the city generally struggles to keep up with the private sector, but that tension has worsened during the pandemic.

“Even though our wages were historically low compared to the private sector, which happened with COVID-19, the job market has accentuated this differential,” he said.

The new tax rate will fund wage increases starting Jan. 1 and cover $ 1.7 million in overtime. Previous estimates have calculated that civil servants are expected to fill a budget deficit of $ 2.2 million. Officials decided to grant the $ 1.7 million scheduled overtime pay, which widened the gap to $ 3.9 million.

Charleston officials plan to raise tax rate to balance 2022 budget

Even with an increased tax rate, the city will still have to cover about $ 600,000 in expenses with reserves.

“Last year has been a difficult year for everyone, but the economy is doing a lot better now, and I am very worried if we are not able to serve our citizens and meet their basic needs,” Councilor Harry Griffin said in the November budget. workshop.

Griffin was one of 11 council members to vote in favor of moving the budget forward. City Councilor Mike Seekings objected.

“We shouldn’t have a property tax increase in 2022 just as people are getting back on their feet,” Seekings said.

One of the biggest contributors to the $ 3.9 million shortfall was a loss in parking revenue, Wharton said.

Prior to 2020, the city’s surplus from parking fees was nearly $ 12 million. With blockages and reduced travel, this surplus now stands at around $ 4 million.

“The general fund has relied heavily on the parking fund to balance the budget over the past few years, and obviously over the past two years that has not been an option,” she said.

Charleston leaders approve $ 234 million budget and property tax increases

Other priorities in the budget include new posts such as an annexation coordinator, a preservation code enforcement officer and a homeless community liaison officer.

The city also used $ 2.8 million of its next installment of federal COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The funds have been allocated in priority to one-time expenses such as renovations of municipal properties and the purchase of equipment for the police and fire departments. Another amount is $ 500,000 for a comprehensive water body, a document that will coordinate the city’s flood mitigation projects.

To reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.

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