Aiken County Council will discuss an increase to the County’s millage rate to give County employees a raise during a public budget work session today.
County Administrator Clay Killian said the meeting will likely focus on employee salaries across departments, not just the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Michael Hunt has requested raising employee salaries across the board by 20 percent, or $10,000 – his excluded – by creating a millage specific to law enforcement.
A millage rate is the rate at which property taxes are charged based on property value.
In a budget work session last month, some Council members voiced concern about raising salaries for a specific department, since the County has not adjusted its compensation ranges since 2007.
“I think, in general, Council has to come to a decision and try to figure out how to raise salaries,” Killian said. “Council is trying their best not to have a tax increase, but I think they recognize it could be difficult.”
Per state law, Aiken County can’t raise its millage rate by more than the cost of inflation and population growth, which, in this case, is 1.4 mills. But the State Budget Control Board allows counties to perform a look back – an option if counties haven’t raised their millage rates in three or four years – and total the unraised millage rate caps during that period of time.
If Council voted to combine three to four years of the state’s 1.4 millage cap, that total could equal about 5 mills.
Killian’s memo to Council in the new 2014-2015 budget states that staff does not recommend an increase in the millage rate. If the state legislature’s budget includes a further reduction in the Local Government Fund, as is currently proposed, he recommended Council increase the millage rate by 1 mill to cover that loss of revenue.
Council unanimously voted to approve the County’s proposed $56.9 million budget on first reading last month. The budget did not include salary adjustments for employees. The second reading and vote is not on tonight’s agenda, but before Council gives final approval, the budget must get two more readings and a public hearing.
The work session will follow Council’s regular meeting in Council Chambers on the third floor of the new Aiken County Government Center, located at 1930 University Parkway. The regular meeting will start at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.