If your property tax bill goes from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, it’s a major shock. And in Greenwood County, it’s happened. A new “fire fee” tacked on to their bill raised some of their payments thousands of dollars.
Every year in November Joel Manley says he expects a big bill in the mail for property taxes in Greenwood County. But this year, he took an unexpected, big blow.
“I just thought something is wrong. They must have miss-printed something. There’s no way it could be that much,” Manley said.
The taxes for his large warehouse business shot up with a $4,000 fire fee. He says last year, it was only $350. Now he says he’s scrambling to find the money before its due in January.
“We are small, it is not a manufacturing company,” he said.
Greenwood County officials say the new fee was budgeted in June. The cost is determined on square footage to pay for the man power and equipment it would take for fire response. It was tacked on for Ninety Six residents in August.
The Mayor of Ninety Six says their fire department has needed financial assistance for awhile. Now, Greenwood County will be taking Ninety Six under their wing and maintaining the volunteer firefighters.
“The only thing we can do is what we think is best for the entire population,” said Mayor Arvest Turner.
Officials say there were a series of public meetings to include everyone on the decision.
“Anytime there is a fee imposed for any purpose, you’re going to have some people that are going to question it and we expected that,” Turner added.
But Joel says he had no idea, and would have shown up if warned. He says he’s asked a lawyer for help, because he feels the price is unfair. “I don’t mind paying my fair share but I don’t think just because we have a big warehouse that I should take the brunt,” explained Manley.
Officials believe the new costs and merge will improve their overall fire response throughout the county.
The fire fees start at $35 for homes up to 1,000 square feet. The fees then increase from there, then cap for manufacturing businesses at $4,000.
The Ninety-Six Mayor says the costs will help pay for their fire department and new fire truck.
Officials say the costs are unavoidable and property owners will have to pay the fee.