CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston City Council on Tuesday met to discuss plans for balancing the city’s budget, which is currently facing an $18 million deficit, caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original plan, which proposed what some described as steep tax hikes, was not received warmly. On Tuesday, leaders worked to develop a plan that would take some of the weight off of taxpayers.
The amended plan, though less severe, would still raise the tax rate by two mills. To put that in perspective, taxes on a $300,000 home would go up by $24 for homeowners and $36 for renters.
However, council is still left deciding between what Councilmember Peter Shahid describes as “the lesser of two evils:” raising taxes and cutting jobs.
City services, such as sanitation, recreation, fire, and police are in jeopardy, although members are reluctant to put more strain on these essential services during what has already been a tumultuous year:
“I’ve seen our police officers sweating in 100 degree heat in riot gear.”Councilmember Ross Appel
Some councilmembers are even putting their money where their mouth is, and stepping up to help out. Outgoing Councilman Harry Griffin says he will donate his next year’s salary to the cause.
One thing that everyone agrees on, help from Washington could be a saving grace. A federal stimulus package, with funds going to local governments, could offset the deficit.
Charleston has faced budget deficits in the past, but has been able to make up the losses with revenue from tourism, and industry hit hard by the pandemic.
Council is expected to make the final decision on the budget plan at the next full council meeting on December 15.