Greenville County Council approved millage rate increase, after packed public hearing

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 10:47 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Tuesday night was among the largest crowds Greenville County Council has ever seen. More than 100 people spilled outside of the chambers into the lobby. It was all about the budget for the next two years and a proposed tax increase—the first in 30 years.

The focus was surrounding an increase in property taxes, specifically the county’s millage rate.

“Why am I not so concerned about the tax increase? Well, I’m willing to give up my quality of life for someone else’s,” said one woman speaking in favor of the increase.

“So we’ve seen economic growth, and you haven’t had to do a tax increase until now, why come?” said a man speaking against the increase.

It wasn’t unanimous on the council either. Council members Steve Shaw and Stan Tzouvelekas presented more than ten amendments to the budget, cutting funding in some areas, and trying to avoid a tax increase.

“Everybody’s gonna pay higher taxes, so if you’re renting a place, your rent’s gonna go up, a business, your prices are going to go up, so my research of the things that we’re proposing to do is that it’s going to increase prices and it’s gonna hit the poor,” said Shaw.

Shaw proposed seven amendments, including cutting Greenlink and affordable housing funding while prioritizing new veteran housing and placing a hiring freeze on county staff, including deputies and EMS. The proposed amendments also eliminated $2.5 million from the Natural Resources Fund, which would fund Lake Conestee Dam repairs.

Those ideas were not received well by everyone on the council, leading to confrontation, mostly aimed at Shaw.

“This is just politics. You’re not actually concerned about doing what’s right,” said Councilman Chris Harrison to Shaw during the meeting.

In the end, eight council members presented a list of 12 minor cuts that would lower the millage rate from a proposed 11 percent increase to a 7 percent increase. Councilman Ennis Fant says without increasing the rate the county would be $21 million short.

“There’s no way to fund county government at a reasonable level without a tax increase, and anybody who’s afraid to that don’t worry about the next election, go home now, quit,” said Fant.

The budget with the millage rate increased by 7 percent ---passed 8 to 4. The reduction amendments are on behalf of council members Tripp, Kirven, Fant, Harrison, Mitchell, Semen, Barnes and Bradley, including;

  • Reduce health insurance premiums by $3 million
  • Reduce transfer from General Fund to Capital projects for information technology, register of deeds historical documents, TR maintenance camp roof replacement, and video laryngoscopy, totaling $1.4 million.
  • Reduce solid waste millage rate by 0.5 miles
  • Reduce medical charities funding by $500,000.
  • Reduce parks, rec, and tourism millage rate by 0.5