Meal tax, higher trash fee on table in Cayce

tflach@thestate.comJune 4, 2014 

Cayce, SC

  • Higher utility rates get initial OK in West Columbia

    A divided West Columbia City Council gave initial approval Tuesday to higher water and sewer rates.

    The plan would adds $3.65 to the bimonthly bill for the typical homeowner and $11 for those who live out of the community.

    West Columbia provides utility service to slightly more than 25,000 homes and businesses, almost evenly divided between those who live in the city and those who live outside.

    It’s the first raise in three years, officials say.

    The increase is needed to pay for rising cost of service and improving facilities and fire protection for neighborhoods outside the city, officials said.

    It won initial approval 5-3, with Mayor Joe Owens and council members Casy Hallman and Teddy Wingard opposed.

— Cayce residents may be digging deeper into their wallets soon to dine out and dispose of trash.

City Council gave initial approval Tuesday to a new meal tax and doubling the monthly fee homeowners pay for waste pickup.

Even with those increases, residents “actually have very low taxes” compared to neighboring communities, Mayor Elise Partin said.

The new meal tax of 2 pennies-on-the-dollar on restaurant dining, takeout food and snacks would generate slightly more than half of the $451,000 needed to balance City Hall’s books.

It would pay for operation of the local museum and upkeep of the Riverwalk along the Congaree River, freeing other money that city officials say are needed to to pay for services such as police. It can also be used to help develop a historic park planned along the river.

Plans call for collection of the tax to start Oct. 1, if final council approval occurs on June 18.

Cayce is on the verge of becoming the only community in Lexington County with a tax long collected in neighboring Columbia and Richland County.

Preliminary approval of the tax came after three residents urged city leaders to look at unspecified. cuts in services.

“Maybe it’s time to have a reality check and cut services,” said former Swansea Mayor Russell Long.

The tax hike would be accompanied by an increase in the residential trash collection fee, doubling it to $9 per month.

Both steps are needed to “take the pressure off” as property taxes and business fees decline, city manager Rebecca Vance said.

The meal tax and trash fee hike could be the first of a series coming for Cayce residents.

Two tax hikes are being developed for the Nov. 4 ballot:

• Lexington 2 schools are seeking the go-ahead for $225 million in school improvements, a plan estimated to add about $120 to the property tax bill of a home valued at $100,000 for taxes.

• Lexington County officials are seeking to add a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax to pay for new roads and other projects, including drainage improvements to reduce flooding in Cayce neighborhoods.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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