Aiken Co. Council, Board of Education talk budgets, tax increases

Both board members and members of the public were happy with the open dialogue that opened up between the two, despite the low turnout. (WRDW-TV / June 5, 2012)

Both board members and members of the public were happy with the open dialogue that opened up between the two, despite the low turnout. (WRDW-TV / June 5, 2012)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, June 5, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Aiken County School Board member Donna Moore Wesby said everything was on the table Tuesday night for public comment, and it went very cordially.

Both board members and members of the public were happy with the open dialogue that opened up between the two, despite the low turnout.

The school board has recommended a millage rate increase of 4.6 mills to its proposed budget.

"Primary residences are not affected. Looking at the value of my home and the cars that we have, our taxes won't even go up $50," Wesby said.

The budget would also use federal money to hire nine first grade teachers to move the teacher-to-student ratio from 18:1 to 16:1. It also uses money from what's basically a savings account to upgrade the school district's wireless technology.

"We are trying to stay on the cutting edge of technology," she said.

The Aiken County Council also had public hearing on its budget Tuesday night.

Last week, some in the county, including Sheriff Michael Hunt, encouraged the council to find money for more dispatchers and deputies. Now, County Administrator Clay Killian says that's likely impossible, as the council walks the tight rope of approving a balanced budget.

"It's going to be very difficult for them to do this year just because of the nature of the beast. Its a very tough year," Killian said.

The roughly $52 million budget also includes no money for new equipment or raises for county employees. At the same time, the budget doesn't increase taxes either.

"We've pretty much squeezed operation very, very tightly," Killian said.

Killian says Aiken County will receive some amount of money from the state's Local Government Fund but they just don't know how much they'll be getting yet. Some of that would be used to buy new equipment. One-third of the patrol cars at the Sheriff's Office have over 100,000 miles.


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