City nudging up property taxes, garbage-pickup fee

By Bobby Bryant, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

Darlington residents will pay slightly higher property taxes and $1 more a month for garbage pickup under a budget plan that got preliminary approval from City Council last week.

The city’s $6.8 million budget plan for next fiscal year, which needs one more vote to become final, raises the city’s tax millage rate by 3.2 mills – from 131.41 to 134.61. That means the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $13 more per year in property taxes, said City Manager Howard Garland.

The millage increase will raise $57,000 to be used for paving roads owned by the city. During a series of work sessions on the budget, council members indicated they wanted road improvements, and Garland offered council a millage increase as an option.

Council’s decision to raise garbage-collection fees means the fee for trash pickup in the city goes from $21.50 a month to $22.50. Garland recommended the increase to council because the city has had to buy a new trash truck and other equipment.

The budget plan for next fiscal year continues a plan that the city passed last year, raising water and sewer rates by 3 percent for customers inside the city and by 5 percent for those outside the city through 2022.

In other business during its June 4 meeting, City Council debated whether the city should donate money to help build a memorial/park honoring slain S.C. police officers, finally deciding to give the project $5,000 if certain conditions are met. But the discussion leading to that decision was long and sometimes testy.

The park, at South Main Street and D Avenue, would honor slain police officer Terrence Carraway of Darlington as well as all S.C. law-enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The project is being spearheaded by Carraway’s widow, Allison, and by mayoral candidate Curtis Boyd, a longtime friend of the Carraway family.

But at council’s May 7 session, a resident of the neighborhood showed council what she described as a petition signed by 200 area residents who don’t want the park near them.

The main problems, Betty Jackson told council, were worries about traffic and about whether a small basketball court planned at the park would attract “the young people,” creating noise and distraction in “a basically senior-citizen neighborhood.”

At last week’s council meeting, council member Elaine Reed said the petition was a concern. “Are we going to ignore the 200 people on that petition?” she asked. Reed said she wanted more discussion and more information.

Boyd said the foundation planning the park has received its certification as a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, and city planner Lisa Chalian-Rock told council that the memorial/park doesn’t violate any zoning laws. But Reed said the definition of the project seemed to have changed.

“You keep saying now that it’s a public park,” Reed said. “It was a ‘memorial.’ … For this to happen, it seems like there’s a lot of changes that have to be made. That’s why I am where I am.”

Rock said that research by the city’s staff found that “park” was the closest technical definition for the project.

Council member John Milling said that, as long as no city ordinances are being broken, the debate seemed to be straying from the issue. “All we’re doing is we’re deciding whether we’re going to fund it to the tune of some dollar amount or whether we’re not going to fund it to the tune of some dollar amount,” he said.

“They have the right, if they can solicit private funds, to utilize that property for that purpose. The city either funds it or the city doesn’t fund it. We don’t have any other issue that’s before us.”

Boyd again defended putting a fenced-in, quarter-size basketball court at the site.

“The only purpose – the ONLY purpose – in putting that basketball quarter-court in that corner is because Terrence (Carraway) loved working with boys and girls clubs,” Boyd said. He said Carraway loved working with kids athletically.

“Our goal is to try to make (the park) something beautiful for Darlington,” Boyd said.

Council members suggested that Boyd meet with some of the people who signed the petition opposing the memorial/park. Council member Bryant Gardner made a motion that the city donate $5,000 to the project if the park’s planners give the city manager a document verifying that the foundation has been given 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit group, and council approved that motion.

Also during last week’s council meeting:

— Council heard a request by Will Isgett, a longtime volunteer organizer for beauty pageants in the area. Isgett said he is helping set up a Miss USA pageant for Darlington in August.

“We’re hoping to start it here, at the local level,” he said. “A girl can advance all the way up to Miss Universe. … We’re starting it in Darlington, and we’re going to take it to Miss South Carolina USA, Miss USA if they win, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe.” He asked the city to donate $1,000 to help support the pageant. Council took no immediate action on the request.

— Mayor Gloria Hines presented a miniature key to the city to Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School senior Ernest B. Buck III of Darlington, who has received an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

— Council held an executive session to discuss what the agenda listed as “purchase of property for ballfields” and a “political-sign ordinance,” but took no votes and offered no details on either issue.

Author: Rachel Howell

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