York Co. Council approves budget with pay hike for staff, property tax increase

adouglas@heraldonline.comJune 17, 2013 

York County employees will see a 1 percent pay increase and homeowners will pay about 3 percent more in property tax next year under a budget approved on Monday night by the County Council.

The 3.2 percent tax hike will add $8 to the annual bill for a homeowner living in a $100,000 house.

The property tax bill for a $20,000 car will go up by $2.40 annually.

Business owners with $500,000 in commercial property will pay $60 more next year.

Employees – many from the York County Sheriff’s Office – turned out in force to the standing-room-only meeting to show support for a 3 percent “pay for performance” raise instead of a 1 percent “cost of living” increase.

The county’s staff is “second to none” and has been given a raise once in the past four years, said Gary Loflin, York County’s public safety communications director.

One of his dispatchers making $30,000 a year has four kids, drives from Clover to Rock Hill for work and sees the cost of living skyrocketing, he said.

“He comes into work so we can make sure the constituents are protected,” Loflin said.

Others advocating for the 3 percent raise included Ritchie Martin, assistant chief administrator for York County’s Moss Justice Detention Center.

“Law enforcement in general is a thankless job,” he said, adding that a 3 percent “pay for performance” incentive would boost staff morale.

Councilman Bruce Henderson assured employees during the meeting that “when the money’s there – when it’s really there – you’ll be rewarded.”

The council members have tangled over spending and property tax increases during several meetings since January.

Councilman Bump Roddey summed up the debate as “emotionally heated” because – while the county is in healthy financial shape – major spending cuts or higher taxes will be needed in the next few years to keep the county running and pay back its debts.

The detailed budget discussion was a “healthy change of pace,” said Chairman Britt Blackwell, adding that the council kept an open mind until Monday’s vote and its debate brought “absolute transparency.”

Three councilmen voted against the budget, which includes hiring four new sheriff’s deputies and a clerk to serve passport-seekers.

Henderson didn’t support the budget, sticking to his position that the county should use its “reserve fund” to keep up with operational costs instead of raising taxes.

The county’s savings fund is healthy, he said, and using that money instead of raising taxes is like giving residents a tax rebate.

“It’s not government’s job to be a bank” and set money aside, Henderson said.

Roddey and Councilman Michael Johnson also voted against the budget.

Johnson repeated his call on Monday that the county should try harder to cut spending and not rely on reserve money to “make the county run.”

Roddey said if the county hires more deputies, the property tax needs to go up by more than 3.2 percent to limit stress on the reserve fund.

Councilman Chad Williams also voiced concern over dipping into the county’s reserve fund by about $2 million for non-capital project spending, saying it could not be a “permanent plan.”

Blackwell – who said he spent nearly all day with Sheriff Bruce Bryant – said he supported a tax increase to cover the cost of hiring four additional deputies.

Less than 1 percent of the approved tax hike will support “operational costs” such as paying employees and maintenance on county buildings.

The rest will be used for paying down York County’s debt.

Early in the budget discussion on Monday, Councilman Joe Cox made a motion to approve a budget that would have upped property taxes by 4 percent.

The motion failed by one vote.

Rezoning request

In other meeting action, the council gave initial approval – by a 6-1 vote with Cox dissenting – to rezone land just outside the city of York to allow for a mobile home.

In April, the county issued a building permit for the home.

It was later discovered that the permit was issued in error and the land’s zoning does not allow for houses other than “stick built” structures or modular homes.

The family can’t move into its home without a certificate of occupancy, which county officials have said won’t be granted until the land is rezoned.

After receiving legal advice behind closed doors on Monday, the council moved forward with the rezoning.

The rezoning request needs two more votes before approval.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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