Fort Mill calls for higher school taxes in 2019-20. Why it won’t affect businesses.

Thanks to increased new development fees and other savings, Fort Mill businesses will likely not pay more to support schools in 2019-2020.

However, Fort Mill’s preliminary $150 million budget is 7.7% higher than in 2018-2019, according to the district.

A public hearing was held Tuesday at the district office. The Fort Mill school board is expected to vote on the budget on June 4.

Budget highlights:

  • Fort Mill is proposing a 4% cost of living salary increase for all eligible employees, a cost of $3.5 million
  • $1.4 million is included for a salary step increase for all eligible employees

  • $3.9 million is included for 52 new classroom teachers
  • The district plans to hire 10 bus drivers, a cost of $317,000
  • 89% of the budget is devoted to employee salaries and benefits

Local businesses won’t have to pay more in school taxes in 2019-’20 thanks to the Fort Mill school district’s increased fees on new development, along with savings from the reselling of recent bonds and an increase in the district’s assessed value, said Joe Burke, district spokesperson.

The district’s new development fees (commonly known as impact fees) were raised in 2018 from $2,500 per new residence to more than $18,000 for each home and $12,000 for each apartment unit, The Herald previously reported.

The increase prompted a lawsuit from area builder associations. A non-jury trial is set for on or after Oct. 14.

As of April, Fort Mill has collected more than $9 million from impact fees, according to the district. Burke said district leaders chose to use a small portion of that revenue to benefit taxpayers.

Tax increases apply only to businesses, non-owner occupied homes and rental properties.

Act 388, South Carolina’s property tax reform measure, replaced tax on primary homes with a one-time sales tax increase on retail purchases to support school operations, The Herald previously reported. Act 388 has led to a loss of revenue for public schools.

Catawba Ridge

The district plans to spend $3.3 million for new positions at Catawba Ridge High School, set to open in August. Those hires, along with costs related to cleaning, utilities and extracurricular activities for Catawba Ridge, are included in the proposed budget.

Teacher raises

South Carolina lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a $9.3 billion state budget that includes a 4% pay raise for teachers and sets the starting teacher salary at $35,000, reports The State newspaper. Gov. Henry McMaster still needs to sign the budget into law.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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