Rapper Snoop Dogg slammed the digital music streaming payout system in a recent interview at the 2023 Milken Institute Global Conference. 

Calhoun County officials are anticipating a tax increase as they continue to develop next year’s budget.

County Council gave first reading by title only Monday to the general fund budget by a 4-1 vote.

The size of the tax increase will not be known until at least the second reading of the budget, according to County Administrator John McLauchlin.

“We are looking at an increase and we do not have exact mills,” he said. “We’ve got a mill that we talked about internally, but that is subject to change.”

Councilwoman Rebecca Bonnette was the sole council member to vote against the budget. She said the only way she will support a tax increase is if there are cuts in administrative pay or staff and an increase in sheriff’s department and deputy pay.

“I have no problem supporting tax increases for the betterment of the sheriff’s office and overall safety of the residents of Calhoun County provided that Calhoun County will eliminate some positions and pay cuts in administration,” Bonnette said.

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“Short of this, I cannot support a tax hike for the citizens of the county,” she said.

Bonnette said most county employees are working at a wage below the state average “with the exception of our administration.”

“If I am going to go back and ask my constituents who elected me to look for the best interests, to dig deep into their pockets sacrificing so they can pay additional taxes, I would like to see the administration might sacrifice,” Bonnette said. “One place it could be: we don’t need to have two administrators. We are a small county with less than 15,000 people.

“We can sacrifice that position and it also wouldn’t hurt for the county administrator to have the same pay as the sheriff, as it has been in the past few years.”

The issue of deputy pay has been discussed a number of times during recent county council meetings.

Sheriff Thomas Summers told council in March that the department is understaffed and underpaid in comparison to neighboring counties. He said deputies are leaving the county for places offering a $12,000 to $15,000 raise.

“When I ran for county council, I ran on the simple idea of keeping taxes low and to promote economic growth while protecting the rural integrity and the charm of Calhoun County,” Bonnette said. “As I travel around this county on a daily basis, I work with and see people who have troubles paying their bills right now.”

“With gas and food and consumer products all at record highs, people are struggling to decide whether to buy vegetables and put food on their tables,” Bonnette continued. “The fact that we just had a major property value increase in November combined with a tax hike for the general fund, it is going to be hard for people and Calhoun County residents to stomach another tax increase within just six months.”

Council Chairman James Haigler said the budget just received first reading by title only.

“It is not the final reading,” Haigler said. “People can change their minds.”

“I am sure some of us will have some comments to make as we get further down the road as to why we are increasing the budget,” he said.

In related matters, council gave unanimous first reading to four budget ordinances covering public schools, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, the Calhoun County Disabilities and Special Needs Board, capital improvements, water and wastewater, the Sandy Run Fire Department and the Calhoun County Rural Fire District.

The ordinance related to the funding of the Sandy Run Fire Department calls for the levy of 4.2 mills of taxes and 2 mills for debt service for the Calhoun County Rural Fire District.

In addition to opposing the first reading of the general fund budget, Bonnette also was the sole member to oppose first reading of funding for the Calhoun Hills Golf Complex.

Bonnette noted that many Sandy Run residents opposed the purchase of the golf complex at the beginning.

“We need to get rid of it,” Bonnette said. “In the past historically it has shown in audits that it has lost a lot of money. So that is why I am going to vote no.”

The county’s 2023-2024 fiscal year budget begins July 1.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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