Lexington County agreed Tuesday to hire more sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and paramedics to keep up with growth.
The positions were added to the county budget that takes effect July 1. The spending plan, which is nearly $25 million higher than the current year’s, would slightly raise property taxes, with the owner of a $100,000 home paying an extra $1.66 a year. It would be the fifth time in the last six years that those homeowners’ taxes were increased less than $2. In 2014, the taxes weren’t raised at all.
County Council agreed to add the public safety workers but stopped short of reaching final agreement on the budget.
“With growth, doing that is necessary,” Sheriff Jay Koon said. “The core of essential services is public safety.”
Some council members said it’s vital to keep pace with demands created by a steady influx of new residents. The county’s population grew by an estimated 10 percent during the past six years to nearly 290,000.
“We need to do more for public safety – it’s critical,” Councilman Ned Tolar of West Columbia said.
The spending additions adopted include:
▪ 20 more paramedics and other ambulance staff on top of 144 now in place.
▪ 15 more firefighters on top of 192 now in place.
▪ 5 more deputies and investigators on top of 275 now in place.
▪ A new station for firefighters and ambulance crews for faster response to calls for help in the Dixiana area.
The spending increase would be paid for almost evenly with savings and revenue from the tax increase, according to estimates from county finance officials.
But the go-ahead for the $170 million spending plan is on hold after council members Erin Long Bergeson of Chapin and Darrell Hudson of Lexington said they have several questions about current spending.
Both were given three weeks to seek answers and determine if they want to seek changes.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483