It’s going to be more expensive to live or run a business in Columbia in the coming year.
For the first time in about a decade, Columbia homeowners and businesses will see their city property taxes increase. That will come on top of increases in water and sewer rates and stormwater fees to fund infrastructure upgrades across the city.
All of those increases could add up to an extra cost of about $98 in the coming year for the average homeowner in the city, if that resident owned a home with tax value of $100,000.
While City Council members stressed Tuesday that the extra costs will address needs for the future of the city – including a $120 million water and sewer improvement plan and $93 million of stormwater projects to reduce the impact of flooding – a single person spoke up in protest of the increases at a public hearing.
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“I’m on a fixed income. I can’t vote myself an increase in my income. I have to make do with what I have coming in,” Brenda Creson told council members before they took a the first of two votes needed to approve the city’s 2017-18 budget. She told them she is worried about her water and sewer bill, which she said would probably rise about $50 or $60 in the coming year.
“Sure, you say it might go up $4 a month,” Creson said. “But to someone on a fixed income, when you start adding $50 to $60 a year to their budget, they might have to cut something else back.” She reminded council members of the years when money was transferred from the water and sewer budgets to fund other, unrelated projects. She said she feels she is being “punished” for what was done in the past.
Councilman Sam Davis, who has resisted raising water and sewer rates in the past, said he has struggled with putting a bigger burden on taxpayers. But, he said, he accepts the higher taxes and utility rates as the cost of a better future for the city.
“Embracing where we say we want to go comes with some understanding of ... what it’s going to take to get there,” Davis said. “This time around, I don’t have a problem supporting (the rate increases) and supporting what we need to do to keep our city going.”
Council members unanimously voted to approve the city’s $329.8 million spending plan for the 2017-18 financial year, which begins July 1. The entire budget includes a $152 million water and sewer budget and a $142 million general operating budget. More than $68 million of the general operating budget will go toward public safety, including the start of yearly pay raises for police and firefighters aimed at employee retention.
The property tax increase – equivalent to $8 for every $100,000 in taxable value of an owner-occupied home – will offset a tax decrease that went into effect two years ago.
City Council will take one final vote at a later date to seal the 2017-18 budget, including the proposed property tax, water, sewer and stormwater increases.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
What’s going up
If you’re a typical homeowner in the Columbia city limits, you can expect to pay about $98 more in city property tax, water, sewer and stormwater bills in the upcoming financial year, beginning July 1. The property tax portion of this estimate is based on a home with a tax value of $100,000.
Property taxes: Rising 2 mills.
For owner-occupied homes, yearly taxes will go up about $8 per every $100,000 of the home’s taxable value. The dollar increase will be higher for rental homes and commercial properties.
Water and sewer rates: Rising 4.75 percent.
For most in-city residents, that’s about $2.50 extra per month. For most out-of-city residents, it’s an extra $4.24 per month. The dollar impact will be higher for businesses.
Stormwater fee: Rising $5 per month for the average city homeowner.
You’ll now pay $11.80 each month, up from $6.80.
The rate will go up another 6.25 percent each of the following four years. By the end of the five-year stormwater improvement program, the average household will pay a roughly $15 stormwater fee.