Aiken City Council opts against property tax hike
Aiken City Council unanimously approved the first of two votes to maintain the City’s tax rate of 62 mills and seek other funding sources to cover a millage shortfall due to decreased city property values during its Monday meeting.
City leaders had considered raising taxes by 1.7 mills to cover a shortfall due to decreasing property values
Council member Philip Merry made the motion to adopt the option to keep the millage rate on city property at 62 mills.
While some property values rose, 40 percent of 15,031 city parcels decreased in value this year.
The County didn’t fare much better.
According to Aiken County Assessor Rick Jantzen, 33 percent of property in the county declined in value, with the largest declines in the City of Aiken in the historic district, Woodside and Houndslake.
The City could have opted to raise taxes to 63.7 mills to compensate for the shortfall, but City staff recommended against it, saying there are other funding sources from which to draw.
That would’ve increased taxes by $6.80 per $100,000 of assessed values, according to Aiken County Assessor’s Office tax formulas.
“It was never in the City’s plan to raise taxes,” said City Manager John Klimm.
“City staff feels confident they can cover the budget shortfall through the end of the fiscal year. It was never in the City’s plans to raise property taxes, nor was it ever City Council’s plan.”
According to Council documents, Klimm said in a memo that options to cover the shortfall included either increasing taxes or operate with a shortfall and make some “budget adjustments.”
The City was adamant there was never any intention to raise property taxes to cover any millage shortfall, Klimm said
“During the many months that we have met and discussed the budget, there was never any talk to increase taxes,” Klimm said. “We do not recommend it, and we clearly do not support it. We recommend the millage reduction, which will mean a tax cut for many city residents. City staff will present a budget shortfall plan to take us through the end of the fiscal year.”
Two readings and a public hearing are required for passage.
Aiken resident Ann Dicks commended the City for not raising taxes.
“I thank you for keeping the millage rate where it is and not raising taxes for city property owners,” she said.
In other business, Council approved a second and final vote to amend the lease agreement of space on the York Street water tower with New Cingular Wireless/AT&T to add equipment to the water tower.
In new business, Council approved a first vote of two votes to approve Mobilitie LLC as a telecommunications services provider.
Council also approved the first of two votes to increase the fine charged for failing to return roll carts to their residence. In a related vote, Council approved the first of two votes to amend the City code regarding residential yard trash.