City of Sumter considers raising taxes

Millage increase on Sumter debt service would be 1st in 11 years

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 5/16/19

Sumter City Council is considering raising taxes on the city's debt service to help balance the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The increase would be the first of any form since the millage rate was raised during the recession in fiscal year 2008, when …

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City of Sumter considers raising taxes

Millage increase on Sumter debt service would be 1st in 11 years

Posted

Sumter City Council is considering raising taxes on the city's debt service to help balance the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The increase would be the first of any form since the millage rate was raised during the recession in fiscal year 2008, when it went from 96 to 105. It went from 105 to 103 in 2010 and to 102 in 2013, where it has remained since, according to city data.

City Manager Deron McCormick said the Finance Department suggested two mills be raised on debt service because paying off the city's debt for certain projects is not permanent. By law, that millage can only be applied to current monies the city is paying back for capital projects.

Those projects suggested for this potential increase are the new Public Safety Complex, which houses the fire and police department headquarters and includes a new space for the 911 dispatchers, and the completion of the city's fiber loop.

Most of the 102 mills city residents pay taxes on is in operations. Currently, the debt service millage rate is four mills. If approved, it would go to six mills. That would bring in an additional estimated $269,224 in revenue, helping to bring the deficit down to zero to balance the budget before final approval.

McCormick said, and council members and the mayor at Tuesday's budget workshop agreed, those projects have been positive for city residents.

The Public Safety Complex has a 50-year shelf life and should be paid off in about 10 years.

There remains a $725,055 difference between expenditures and revenues budgeted for next year, but an approval of the millage increase and other changes discussed in Tuesday's workshop would bring that deficit down to about $99,000.

Finance Department staff proposed a $15 increase in commercial garbage services provided by the city to bring in an additional $206,000 a year. Councilman Colin Davis suggested changing that increase to $20, which was supported by those present - Mayor Joe McElveen and councilmembers Steve Corley and Thomas Lowery, along with Councilman Calvin Hastie, though he had to leave before the end of the meeting.

Davis said he uses one of the city's private-business competitors, Republic Services, and he thinks the city provides a higher-quality service while still being cheaper, even with the $20 increase. If approved, the $5 more would total about $70,000 more in revenue to reach $99,000 instead of $160,000.

It was agreed upon that commercial garbage collection should not be a profitable business for the city but that it should break even.

Rates are currently $69.50 for a 4-yard Dumpster collected once a week and $97.18 for an 8-yard bin with collection once a week.

Waste Management charges $164 and $220, Arwood Waste Management $213.47 and $363.47, Capital Waste Services $100 and $150 and Republic $125 and $155.19, respectively, according to city-provided data.

A proposed increase in the recycling fee will bring in a total of $100,000 next year.

Largely led by Councilman Corley, a proposal to create a new position for a litter technician will be added by council's next meeting.

What's next?

Council kept the millage increase proposal in the draft budget to be discussed on Tuesday at a public hearing in council chambers at the top of the Sumter Opera House.

Ideally, McCormick said, first and second readings can take place in June.