Millage stays the same, but Fairfield bills rise

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County’s millage rate will remain unchanged for the 2019-2020 budget year, though payers will likely still see a slight increase as the county’s millage rate remains among the highest in the state.

At the Sept. 9 meeting, County Council passed a resolution setting the millage rate at 181.8 mills, the same as the past year.

The county’s $26.15 million budget, according to council documents, and associated millage is broken down four ways:

  • General Fund – $23,417,841 (160 mills)
  • Hospital/Emergency Room – $937,000 (7.8 mills)
  • County Debt Retirement – $1,247,184 (10.4 mills)
  • Library Operations – $548,108 (3.6 mills)

Fairfield County’s millage is the fourth highest in the state, trailing only Bamberg (231.1) and Allendale (224) and Hampton (196.8), according to a 2018 report by the S.C. Association of Counties, the most recent available.

Berkeley is the lowest at 50.5, the report says.

With that in mind, Ridgeway resident Randy Bright said during public comments that Fairfield County is already seeing its population decline and raising property taxes would accelerate that decline.

“I fully understand that you guys are boxed in by the plethora of mistakes made by preceding councils,” Bright said. “And I’m not asking for a reduction in the millage rate, but I implore you to hold the line. Do not raise property taxes.”

County Administrator Jason Taylor said the current budget does hold the line on taxes, but noted what taxpayers pay this year will be “slightly higher” due to declining sales tax collections.

Taylor said local option sales tax revenues ordinarily provides a credit to property taxes, but sales tax revenues continue to plunge.

“That credit has come down and down and down because our retail base has eroded,” Taylor said. “As we have less retail base here, the local option sales tax credit decreases for us.”