Mixed messages on whether Greenville transportation bond leads to tax hike

A slide from a Greenville City Council presentation on a proposed bond referendum.

Mixed messages are clouding a debate on whether Greenville’s proposed $15.85 million transportation bond will lead to a tax hike.

At the June 11 city council meeting, councilmember Kandie Smith said she would not support any tax hike to pay back money the city would owe if voters approved the bond.

“What’s going to lead me to believe that we would raise it for the bond and say it’s really needed,” Smith said. “I just want to make sure that we approve it.”

“Well I’m a little confused, was there votes held in this council in support of taxes associated with this bond?” Mayor Allen Thomas asked.

“If taxes are required to [pay] the principal and interest, you’re required to do that,” City attorney Dave Holec explained. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that taxes are required to pay.”

“Why’s there been such significant messaging media-wise that this is going to be a 2.3% increase in tax?” Thomas asked.

The reason is that in a presentation made to city council several months ago., a slide said “it is expected that a tax increase will be required to fund any proposed G.O. bond issued in the coming years.”

Following the statement is a list of how much a property tax hike will impact taxpayers.

“Why wouldn’t they assume that it’s going to be what it’s always been which is paid within our means within our budget?” Thomas continued.

In past bonds, the city’s grown enough in new business and revenue to where the city council didn’t need to hike taxes.
City spokesman Steve Hawley said staff members expect it to happen again, but there is uncertainty.

“There’s no way to guarantee it,” Hawley said. “All we’re doing is making our best guesses the same way that we estimate every year what the revenues are going to be.”

He says it’s unknown whether a tax hike is needed until after the bond would be approved by voters.

The following Thursday, Mayor Thomas reasserted his promise that there will be no tax hike.

“I think our city council needs to make a statement that we aren’t going to raise taxes for a number of items on this bond; that we’re going to handle that debt service within our city budget,” Mayor Thomas said. “I’m making that statement right now. Same statement I’ve been making.”

A public hearing will be held on the bond August 13, 2015.

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