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County residents question tax bills Print E-mail

“Why are my taxes so high?” Seems to be the question a number of Bamberg County residents are asking since receiving their 2010 tax notices in the mail recently. A simple question of whether a county ordinance should have been changed to reflex a change in the millage rate seems to be reason for this years’ tax increase not the fact that Bamberg County is getting a new school and renovations to the other two existing schools.

According to Bamberg County Auditor Margaret B. Meyer in 1993 millage was put on the books for Jail Construction at 12 mills and an ordinance was passed by county council to put on 12 mills. From 1993 to 1999 those 12 mills was still on the books listed under several different titles during that period including: Jail Reimbursement and Jail Bond, Capital Needs and Equipment Replacement and Capital Needs and Equipment.

In 1999 when reassessment occurred, the values of property went up but the millage rate was dropped to 9.6 mills. From 1999-2004 the millage rate was listed as 9.6 mills. In 2005 when reassessment happen again property values went up again but millage was reduced to 8.6 from 2005-2009. However, when the county’s auditors came in 2009, they looked in the ordinance book that the county publishes each year and discovered that 12 mills was still on the book and had never been updated.

“I don’t know any of the background on that,” Meyer said, adding “If it was just an oversight that the ordinance had never changed. I don’t know what the reason for that was. It still said in the little ordinance book 12 mills.” Meyer noted that Bamberg County Council approved this year to put 12 mills back on the books based on the recommendation of the county’s auditors because that was the amount on the books.

“When I put the millage on, I go by a letter saying what millage has been passed by county council and signed by the county administrator, the assistant administrator and finance director,” Meyer noted.

Bamberg County Administrator Rose Dobson-Elliott noted that there was no reason to change the ordinance to reflect the millage change. “There shouldn’t have been a change in the ordinance the way it was written,” Dobson- Elliott said. “If the ordinance should’ve been changed council would have had a dollar figure in there. But since the council had a mill number in there it had nothing to do with the mill value.”

The administrator noted that somewhere down the line an error may have occurred when a wrong number was picked up. She also noted that during that time frame the millage rate was reduced by 5.4 mills when council reduced the millage by two mills and the auditor’s office reduced the millage by 3.4 mills. “Actually the people got a 5.4 mill break,” Dobson-Elliott noted.

At their September 27, 2010 County Council meeting on the agenda was the discussion and revisiting of Bamberg County’s Millage Assessment. Councilmember Saint Clair P. Guess III wanted to know if there were “procedural changes in place” to safeguard any future problems with tax notices like this one that resulted in a $75,000 loss to the county.

“We’re all on the same page now,” County Administrator Rose Dobson-Elliott said.

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