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Property taxes lower than neighboring counties

Posted: November 23, 2010 3:23 p.m.
Updated: November 24, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County homeowners may be put off with new tax notices sent out last week, but they could be paying more if they lived in most neighboring counties.

Kershaw County Administrator Clay Young said when contrasting Kershaw County with Fairfield, Lee and Richland counties, tax rates here are more favorable. Rural Lancaster County comes in just less than Kershaw County, he said.

According to the Kershaw County Auditor’s Office, a $100,000 home assessed at 4 percent in Kershaw County equates to a tax bill of $456.90. Six percent assessment comes out to $1,667.50. A $200,000 home assessed at 4 percent comes out to $913.80, while 6 percent would be $3,335.

A $100,000 home in Fairfield County assessed at 4 percent would have a tax bill of $711. Richland County would come in at $1,492 and Lee would be $708. Lancaster is $455.90.

A $200,000 home in Fairfield assessed at 4 percent would be $1,422.80, while in Richland, it’d be $2,986 and Lee would be $1,416. Lancaster would be $911.80.

Young stressed that property taxes go toward vital county services, such as supporting administration of county government and the public school system, building and repairing public buildings for both the county and schools,  paying court expenses, jail and law enforcement, providing fire protection and paying salaries for county and school district employees.

Over the course of the recent recession, the county has trimmed nearly $2 million from its budget.

Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan, who has seen the school district’s budget cut more than $15 million during the past two budget years, said a common misconception about taxes in Kershaw County and across South Carolina is that homeowners pay for school taxes.

But after Act 388 was passed in 2006, owner-occupied homes, which are assessed at 4 percent, were stripped of their duty to pay for school operations. Instead, education funding is now supplied through a 1-cent increase in sales tax, which critics say has fallen way short of education needs.

“People have to decide what services they want to pay for,” said Morgan. “It’s simple as that.”

Many times people don’t make the connection that if they want services, they have to pay for them, added Morgan.

“Parents will tell me about programs in other districts, and ask why we don’t have them here. Usually the people in those districts are paying much higher taxes. I get people asking me when we’re going to restore the programs we cut. Well, we can’t do the same things when we’ve had to cut $17 million,” he said.

Kershaw County’s tax bills are due Jan. 1, 2011. If you pay between Jan. 1 and Jan. 16, there will be a 3 percent penalty. Between Jan. 16 and Feb. 2 is a 10 percent penalty, and from Feb. 2 until March 17, there is a 15 percent penalty, and the bill is turned over a delinquent tax collector.

Frequently asked questions and more information can be found at Kershaw County’s website – www.kershaw.sc.gov -- through the auditor and treasurer departments.

Young directs residents with questions or concerns about their tax notice to the county assessor’s office.

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