The Aiken County School Board voted on June 26 to increase the operating millage 4.2 mills, raising it from 131.6 mills to 135.8 mills.
Owners of properties including businesses, second residences in the county, rental properties, agricultural, manufacturing, utility properties and owners of vehicles will be affected by the increase.
Vehicle owners will not see the increase on the vehicle property tax bills until 2013; however, the increase will be included in all other property tax bills sent out starting in October with the exception of primary residences., according to Lisa Westbrook, Aiken County’s deputy auditor.
South Carolina Act 388 exempts primary residences from school operating millage.
The 4.2-mill increase is expected to bring in approximately $1.4 million for the district, said district comptroller Tray Traxler.
The increase, which is lower than the proposed 4.6-mill increase, received an 8-1 vote, with board member John Wesley Hightower voting against it.
Aiken resident Diane Parker spoke against the millage increase during several meetings and was disappointed that a majority of the board voted in favor of it, she said.
“I think they should be made to live within their budget,” she said.
She also expressed concern about the salaries of the district’s administration and the conditionally approved 2012-13 salary schedules. Hightower was the only board member to vote against conditionally approving the salary schedules.
The board conditionally approved other budget items because, as of June 26, the state Legislature had yet to adopt a state budget. Once a state budget is adopted, the conditionally approved items can take effect, said Traxler.
The school board did make a few changes in the tentative budget. The board eliminated the proposed new volunteer coordinator position and decided to make one of the two new educational technology positions a contracted position.
Funding additional positions that will have an impact on students’ education such as three curriculum coach positions and additional Career & Technology Education teaching positions was an important part of the mill increase consideration, said school board vice chairman Ray Fleming.
Increasing taxes wasn’t an easy decision, but it will help ensure the district has the resources it needs to best serve students, he added.
“Nobody likes to have their taxes raised and we as a board don’t like doing it but we’re elected to provide quality education for all students in Aiken County,” he said. “Sometimes to ensure that we provide that quality education, we have some tough decisions to make.”
The 2012-13 budget includes funding for North Augusta High School’s ninth-grade academy that was approved earlier in the year. The academy will be implemented in the 2012-13 school year.
One of the additional Career & Technology Education teaching positions will be added at North Augusta High, Fleming said.
The board also conditionally approved to provide $250 teacher supply checks to teachers to purchase supplies and it was the only recommendation that received unanimous vote in favor of the action. The money comes from the state and flows through the district to distribute to teachers.