Aiken County 2018 budget bases fire fees on fair market value, some residents see hike in tax notices

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – Taxes aren’t due for another few months, but hire service charges on notices aren’t sitting well with some taxpayers.

New wording in the budget says fire fees are based on fair market value, not assessed value. That means many residents could see higher service charges on their tax notices next year.

Belvedere Fire Chief Chad Hyler has been fighting more than flames lately. He says his department has been in hot water since the 2018 tax notices went out.

“We started receiving several complaints, people coming in physically and calling us on the phone, letting us know the fire fee rates have increased. We knew we had no meeting, as far as our commissioner meeting, so we knew it wasn’t on our end.” Hyler told WJBF NewsChannel 6.

A tax notice obtained by NewsChannel 6 shows one taxpayers fire fee for 2018 went up $35.14 since 2017. However, the Chief says his volunteer fire crews didn’t request more funding.

So Hyler did some digging and found something different in the Aiken County 2018 Fiscal Year Budget.

“It says where a range of property values is listed above for fire protection service fees, it means the fair market value of the parcel, including improvements, as determined by the Aiken County Assessor. We’ve never known the fair market value to be the rate that it goes off on fires fees. It’s usually a capped value, so somehow his wording has been put in and no one caught it.” Hyler said.

District 5 Councilman Sandy Haskell says fire fees are usually approved with no issues, so council didn’t think twice about passing it.

Haskell says to his knowledge fire fees have always been based on assessed property value.

“I’m annoyed, it’s something that we should have talked about. I did notice it in one of the budget ordinances. It was not there in the next budget ordinance.”

The County Administrator tells NewsChannel 6 fire fees have always been based on fair market value.

He says the changes to the language in the budget were done to make it consistent across the county, because different departments charge fees based on different values.

The county has to enter fee manually, which makes room for human error.

The County Administrator says he can better discuss the bills, if he can look at one, so NewsChannel 6 will be following up with him.

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story. 

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