R2 board votes for 18.5 millage increase

COLUMBIA — The Richland County School District Two school board held a special called budget meeting Tuesday evening to discuss funding needs for the 2022-23 school year. 

After two and a half hours of discussion, the board voted 4-3 to ask Richland County for an 18.5 mill increase for the 2022-23 school year. Board members Lindsay Agostini, Dr. Monica Scott and LaShonda McFadden voted against.

The current millage rate is 7 percent.

The millage increase would raise property taxes for local businesses and secondary homes and is estimated to bring an additional $6.16 million in to the district for the upcoming budget year.

Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis stated that, with the 18.5 mill increase, a business that has a property value of $100,000, would be paying $9 more a month in property taxes. That would be $108 over a year.

Board member Lindsay Agostini spoke out against the increase.

“While primary homeowners aren’t taxed, I think half of our families are pupils in poverty and I have to wonder how many [of those families] actually own a home,” Agostini said. “So when that second home gets taxed and it’s rented out to one of our pupils in poverty it really will affect our families. I can only imagine that it will be passed on to the consumer and with the state of our nation and economy right now this is something I cannot support,” Agostini said.

Dr. Harry Miley, the District’s Chief Financial Officer told the Board that Richland County would need to know “tomorrow” [Wednesday] how much millage increase the Board wants so they can have time to consider it before the June 7 county council meeting.

In a letter to members of County Council, a Richland County Planning Commissioner Stephen Gilchrist, who is also a member of the R2 Black Parents Association, reminded them that an 18.5 millage increase for the district would take the tax rate to the tax cap in the county for Richland School District Two.

“Please remember in 2019, Richland School District Two issued the largest bond in the School District’s history to pay for among other things security concerns,” Gilchrist wrote.

“Taxpayers approved this bond in a referendum in hopes that this would offset any future tax increases to address things like security which is so desperately needed now.  It is the ultimate responsibility of Count Council to provide a level of governing when millage agencies like school districts and others fail to recognize their inept ability to lead in a fiscally responsible way,” Gilchrist continued.

“Richland School District Two failed to submit their budget to you before your second reading. On June 7, you will hold third reading on the county budget. Please consider the parents, students and businesses in our community who continue to shoulder an enormous tax burden in your county,” Gilchrist wrote. “With inflation rates rising, fuel prices increasing, interest rates rising and [with the county having] the highest taxes in the country, please do not allow the District’s proposed “tax cap” increase to lead us further into a non-competitive state and ultimately into a new pandemic.”

The district also voted Tuesday night to extend the current budget until June 30 to grant more time for local and state-wide decisions.

Complicating the issue is that Richland Two does not yet know how much state education funding will be coming from the Senate and House.

“The decisions we are making here are to make sure we are trying effectively to cover ourselves if those 27 members of the Richland delegation are not able to sway those 127 in the house to vote in our favor,” said school board member Amelia McKie.

Richland County council will meet on June 7, to take a vote on the 18.5 percent millage increase. The Senate and House will meet in June for a special session to work on the state education budget.

Comments

  1. Trustee James Manning made a Motion for an 18.4 millage increase (not 18.5). Is Richland 2 sending a request to County Council for 18.5? See livestream.com/richland2 (May 31, 2022 meeting) at 1:54:40.

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