Modest property tax and fee increases are in the works as Richland County Council prepares to wrap up budget discussions Wednesday.
Here are a half-dozen things in the works affecting community life:
Hidden fees: A 2 percent increase in the cost of doing business with Richland County – through fees charged to everyone from developers to bridegrooms – will bring in an extra $1 million a year. Calling an ambulance? That’s $561, an increase of about $11. Getting married? You’ll pay an extra buck, to $41. From here on out, fees will be adjusted a little each year by the rate of inflation.
Technology on wheels: Ninety digital cameras and 50 laptops will be installed in sheriff’s deputies’ cars as part of a $722,000 expenditure to improve technology over the next three years. Believe it or not, the department’s still using VHS machines. “The technology’s older than the deputies,” said Chief Deputy Steve Birnie.
Voting costs: The council singled out the county elections office for a hold-the-line budget of $1.2 million, the same amount it got this year. That cut voting machines and related equipment, though new director Howard Jackson (who starts work Monday) could make a pitch for more machines later on.
Hospitality attacks: A philosophical debate over use of $5.4 million collected on restaurant meals – to big-city projects with proven track records, or to new venues in rural and suburban areas? – was the brouhaha of the budget. In the end, the council punted. But hold tight for October, the deadline for a newly established council committee to release its recommendations for the future.
Taxpayers catch a break: Assistant director Kenya Bryant said the agency needed at least $800,000 to run a new rec center opening next year. But Auditor Paul Brawley saved the Recreation Commission from becoming a political football with figures showing natural growth in property values would cover the agency’s extra bills.
Cops in schools: Still unresolved is who’ll foot the bill for 14 new school resource officers. Richland 1 wants an armed officer at every school. But the $1.6 million was not included in the budget as the school district braces for federal budget cuts. Will the county take up the slack?
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.