School Taxes Have Risen Significantly
By Alex Saitta
November 15, 2014
The claim by groups like the Concerned Citizens of Pickens County and at times the school district administration, that school taxes have not been raised in Pickens County or have not been raised much is simply untrue.
The school district levys two taxes. School operations taxes fund day-to day costs to run the schools. School debt taxes fund school construction and repair. School operations tax rate + school debt tax rate = total school tax rate.
It is misleading to only talk about the operations tax rate, which has been relatively stable, trying to create the impression school taxes have not been raised.
While the tax rate for school operations has been relatively stable, the tax rate for school debt has risen four different times. As a result, the total school tax rate has risen significantly, from 128 mills in 2007 to 165.2 mills today.
for the link for the county auditor's website for the year before the tax hikes started. You can see school operations tax rate was 109 mills and the school debt tax rate was 19 mills or 128 mills in total.
for the current link for the latest tax rates. School operations tax rate is 112 and the school debt tax rate is 53.2 or 165.2 mills in total.
Looking at the school debt tax hike in dollar terms, taxes for school debt were $7.7 million in 2007. This year Pickens County taxpayers will fork-over $24.9 million to fund school debt. You see in 2006, when the school board borrowed $354 million for its building plan (I voted against the plan), it structured the deal so the bond payments would rise from 2007 through 2015.
In 2015 the bond payment will rise the last time to $26.1 million, so a fifth increase in the school debt tax rate is likely. The annual payment levels off at $26.1 million until 2031.
Below is a school district sheet detailing the annual bond payments. The payments that have been made are in column B. The future payments are in column C. You see the big jump in 2007 to 2008 when the $350 million was borrowed and you can see how the payment has been slowly rising. Jumping from column B to column C, you can see the payment jumps from $24.9 million to $26.1 million. (The table lags a year. For instance, $26.1 million will be raised in 2015, but that bond payment will be made in early 2016 and that is when this table records the payment.)
The notion $387 million in new schools were built (equalvalent to building 38 new Easley libraries) and school taxes were not raised is baseless and misleading.
By the way, in column G you can see a proposal made by the district administration to borrow another $5.5 million each year for building capital needs (replacing roofs, HVAC's and repaving parking lots). It is becoming clearer and clearer what many of us said in 2006 is now true. If all these buildings are built, the district will not have the money to run, clean and repair them. See more about that.
As of now, the annual bond payment is $18 million a year higher than it was before the building program. The cost to run, clean and repair on a day to day basis the extra 800,000 in sqf of buildings is $3 million a year. It is and will continue to cost an extra $5 to $6 million more a year for building capital needs. Likely taxes will be raised again, and there is little money for anything else.
It is wonderful to have all these great school buildings, but you have to be able to afford them. If you can't, it will put great strain on your budget, and less money will be available for the classroom.