An October 25, special called meeting and public hearing by Williamsburg County Council regarding amending the County's budget ordinance to provide for adjustment to the millage rate was attended by very few. Public hearings are required for county council to gain input from the public at large. Half a dozen citizens showed up for the meeting that was conducted by one council member (Harry Darby) and Supervisor Stanley Pasley.
The reason behind amending the ordinance is result of a state mandated reassessment of property values. According to Director of Finance Walt Ackerman, the new assessment will reflect a 2.8 millage decrease on the tax bill. In September, citizens received a reappraisal notice but they have yet to receive a tax bill. Ackerman said efforts were hindered in part because of the South Carolina Real Property Valuation Reform Act (Act 388), a bill passed by state lawmakers in 2006 that is layered in stipulations and complicated calculations. The legislation also prevents local governments from raising millage rates by more than a formula based on inflation plus population growth and caps increases in the assessed value of property at 15 percent. Taxes can be increased by using Consumer Price Index or CPI but Ackerman said they are not asking to do that at this time.
Ackerman said because the county, as a whole increased in value since the last reassessment (by less than 2 percent), not all property values increased. "Depending on where your property was situated, what type property you had is going to depend on whether your tax bill remains the same, goes down, or goes up, based on the new millage," said Ackerman. He added that the bulk of folks in the county would see a reduction in taxes due to the rollback, "because their property values either held the same or went up less than one percent, or even decreased in some cases." Ackerman said properties that have seen an increase in value are timber tracks, large Agriculture properties and some river front properties.
His positive remarks fell to the wayside as several citizens claimed their property values have skyrocketed. Clifton Cooper said his farm land has tripled in value. "Mine went from a thousand to over three thousand dollars," said Cooper adding. 'This is supposed to be a time when things level out because nothings going up - things are going down." Cooper also questioned his four acres of land valued at $15,000. "How can that be right? There is no way possible that can be right, out there where I live."
Others had similar complaints to which Ackerman offered answers. He also invited the attendants to contact the tax assessor’s office. Ackerman said citizens could also file a complaint simply by writing a letter. "If you don't think its right, you have the right to appeal." Supervisor Pasley agreed with Ackerman saying citizens who have concerns should take that step. "The only thing that you need to do is follow up with it," said Pasley. "You just need to raise a formal appeal with the assessors office and they will have to come back out and give you a written reason for whatever the case may be. In fact, as you (Cooper) suggest that that's not accurate, and they find it not to be, then they will correct it. And if not, then they will give you a legitimate written reason as to how they came to that conclusion." The next re-assessment will occur in 2015. The following morning a scheduled meeting where council would consider voting on the amended Ordinance was canceled due to a lack of the required council members to form a quorum. According to Pasley, Council would also have heard a presentation regarding the landfill fee. Pasley said they are looking at a $16 reduction of the current $111 solid waste fee. However, both the landfill fee proposal and approval of the amended Ordinance will have to wait. At time of press, the next meeting date was unknown.