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Jasper County Council has unanimously approved its 2019-20 budget with no millage-rate increase.
At its June 18 meeting, council approved its final reading of the $31,204,375 budget. There will be no millage increase for the sixth consecutive year.
Councilwoman Barbara Clark said the proposal did not include everything she wanted to see in it.
“I have been begging for a decrease in mills for the last two or three years and we are not going to get it again this year in the budget,” Clark said. “I’m not satisfied with it, but I said whatever we come up with I would go along with, but I am not satisfied with it. It is time to give something back to the people.”
Councilman Henry Etheridge said he has been adamant about having all residents receive the same amount of services, particularly fire services.
“I can’t understand how anybody would rather cut the millage and let people go lacking,” Etheridge said. “To let a citizen go lacking to cut the millage half a mil, I don’t understand it. When we get in a position where we can, I’ll cut the budget.”
Councilman Marty Sauls added, “I understand Bellinger Hill and other areas need fire services, and ambulance service is a huge concern. Saving me $3 (in taxes) a year to say I cut the budget when I know we need three extra emergency personnel to run an ambulance, that makes no sense.
“We don’t spend people’s money frivolously. We respect it and try to do what we can. Nothing that this council does is done lightly. We genuinely care about our county and the services that we provide.”
Etheridge moved to replace the community paramedic and quick response vehicle with a peak-time ambulance to include a firefighter/EMT and firefighter/paramedic. The budget will add three firefighters/EMTs for daytime staffing at Grays, Point South and Bellinger Hill fire stations for $174,000 and an additional full-time employee in the probate judge office for $26,000.
The budget also will fund repairs for the emergency services building ($150,000), new computer equipment for the clerk of court ($25,000), new equipment for the coroner’s office ($16,000), a plan for sheriff’s office vehicle replacement ($200,000) and a plan for fire/rescue vehicle replacement ($280,000) and a $91,700 increase in information technology funding.
Hardeeville lowers millage rate
Hardeeville City Council unanimously approved final reading of its budget for the upcoming year at its June 20 meeting.
For the eighth consecutive year, residents will see a reduction in the millage rate. The budget lowers the millage rate from 117 to 114.
“The city is embarking on $8 million worth of improvements with a new community center, new fire stations and new parks,” Mayor Harry Williams said. “The scope of what we are doing to improve the city is important, and at the same time for the eighth straight year we have lowered taxes by another three mills.”
The budget totals $45,627,796 in revenues and expenditures with a 2.4 percent cost of living increase for employees.
The general operating fund is $14,994,200, with $2,332,866 in special revenue funds. There is an additional $1,695,501 in the budget for a special assessment district fund, as well as a Hilton Head Lakes development investment fund of $9,214,461.
The capital improvement fund totals $17,390,768 and consists of more than $4 million in grant projects to include improvements at Hardeeville Commerce Park and Exit 3/Riverport.
The budget also includes various federal and state public safety programs to cover law enforcement liability, public works, safety and fire service. It also includes the construction of a 36,000-square-foot recreation facility.
“Through good planning of the city manager and staff, we are able to accomplish great things for the city and at the same time reduce taxes,” Williams said. “I think that’s a compliment to everyone who works in the city and the council who has worked hard on the budget.”
Administrator: Ridgeland property taxes to decrease
Ridgeland Town Council passed the final reading of its new budget June 20.
“The budget was approved and it increased from last year as the town continues to improve its services,” town administrator Dennis Averkin said.
The newly approved general fund budget is $4,844, 579, an increase of $368,276 from the previous year, Averkin said. He said the town will be able to maintain services and upgrade facilities and equipment.
The town is increasing its millage rate by the allowed 2.4 percent, or 3 mills, under state law, Averkin said. But he said homeowners will see a decrease in their property tax bills as the town is increasing the local option sales tax credit factor.