LAURINBURG — Scotland County has shaved a penny off its property tax rate.
The county board of commissioners voted this week to lower the tax rate to $1.02 for every $100 of valuation.
County Manager Kevin Patterson had recommended the tax rate stay at $1.03 to help deal unforeseen needs that may arise in the coming year. Patterson said there several big-ticket capital needs that were not included in the budget, including $2 million for the Morgan Center and several parking lot pavement projects. The only significant capital project in the budget is the repair of a communications tower and communications equipment
But commissioners said they wanted the tax rate reduced. A cent on the tax rate equals about $200,000.
“We all agreed that the one cent was the best we could do this year,” Commissioner Bob Davis said. “Our goal down the road is to get it under a dollar, but we also want whatever we do to be sustainable.”
The budget includes a one percent cost of living increase which would cost the county about $143,555. The plan also gives county employees a one-time salary progression that would cost total $413,744. Patterson said the plan would help ease salary compression.
The budget adds five positions: an accounting technician; two income maintenance case workers for the county Department of Social Services; and two deputies for the sheriff’s department. The sheriff would also get two new Dodge Chargers — $60,000 total — under the proposed budget.
Scotland County residents will see, on average, about a $5 increase in monthly water bills that will show up in August. Patterson said he sees the increase as a way to encourage conservation because homes that use more water will be charged more. It is the second increase for county residents in two years since the city of Laurinburg increased the price of water to county by 30 percent.
Patterson said that water rates have been “kept artificially low for a very long time.”
About 44 percent of Scotland County’s budget goes to personnel, while 27 percent goes to education; and 23 percent goes to operational expenses.
The budget takes effect on Friday.
“Over all, I’m pleased,” Davis said. “I think it is good budget.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023