SC budget deal could mean tax increases or cuts in services

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — A final state budget agreement that House and Senate negotiators reached late Wednesday night could mean local tax increases or cuts in services.

The budget plan puts more money into the state pension system because of an unfunded liability of at least $24 billion. Under the plan, the state would pay for half of the additional money going into the system while cities, counties, and school districts would pay the other half.

Debbie Elmore, with the South Carolina School Boards Association, says schools are grateful that the budget includes additional money for schools but it’s not enough to cover the pension increase and required teacher pay raises. What does that mean for school districts? “It could mean that they could raise local taxes. It could mean cuts to personnel. It could mean cuts to services and programs, so we’ll just have to see how it plays out,” she says.

Local taxpayers could also see the same from their cities and counties. Reba Campbell, deputy executive director of the SC Municipal Association, says, “It’ll mean they’ll have to dig into their own priorities and decide: tax increase? Cut services? Reprioritize? At this point, it’s too early to know and each city’s going to have to decide on its own what their priorities are.”

The budget does include additional money for schools, raising the base student cost by $75 per student. It also includes $55 million to help schools in high-poverty districts repair crumbling school buildings. And there’s almost $29 million for new school buses, but state education superintendent Molly Spearman says the state needs $73 million to replace buses from 1995 and ’96.

There are no across-the-board pay raises or one-time bonuses for state employees, but there is money for the Department of Corrections to raise officers’ pay by $1,000 to try to reduce turnover and improve recruiting of new officers.

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