Columbia, SC (The State) – There is a good chance Columbia property owners could pay more taxes in the coming year to fund pay raises for police, firefighters and other city employees.
An $8 per year tax increase per $100,000 owner-occupied home could be the key to a 2 percent cost-of-living pay adjustment for all city employees beginning in January, plus the start of a 3 percent yearly pay increase program for police and firefighters, which is aimed at improving employee retention.
“We have to sustain where we ought to be as a capital city when it comes to public safety,” Councilman Sam Davis said Tuesday at a council workshop. “Our pockets are being picked by other municipalities in terms of (employees) we’re losing.”
Councilman Howard Duvall added that city employees “need to have livable wages. … And we can’t do that if we’re continually stressing the general fund with failure to take advantage of the revenue sources that we have.”
A majority of City Council members expressed willingness Tuesday to go along with the property tax increase, which effectively would cancel out a tax reduction the city implemented two years ago.
“I’m regretting it,” Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said of the earlier tax cut.
It has been almost a decade since property taxes last went up in Columbia.
The proposed tax increase is expected to generate an additional $1.1 million for the city in the year that begins July 1.