Loris tax hike a surprise to residents, council, too

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Many property owners in Loris have received an unexpected and unwelcome surprise as annual tax notices have landed in their mail boxes in recent days.

     Loris City Council members have also expressed surprise, saying they did not realize when they set the tax rate for the new fiscal year in June that they were approving the largest tax increase in recent memory, one that translates to about 7.7 mills though the tax rate seemed to mirror the 2018 rate at 118.45 mills.

     Revaluation is to blame, a factor not reflected in the budget proposal presented by now former City Administrator Damon Kempski last spring and missed, at the time, by both veteran and relatively short-term members of council.

     Efforts to reach Kempski for this story were not successful.

     “We didn’t raise taxes,” Mayor Todd Harrelson said Tuesday. “The county did that.”

     Property values rose in the city as a result of revaluation by $655,572.23, from $8,593,320.99 in 2018 to $9,248,893.22, records provided by the Horry County Tax office show.

     Council did not adjust the tax rate to reflect the new values, which means higher tax bills for many.

     Council veterans Michael Suggs, Lewis Hardee and Joan Gause, the only three who have been through the revaluation process before, all said they recognize the error now, but did not when the budget was being discussed.

     “I wasn’t even thinking at the time,” Hardee said. “We’ve never had this happen before.”

     Council members Terrance Hardee and Jan Vescovi, who have not served during a revaluation in the past, said Tuesday they were not aware that they had voted for what has proven to be a tax hike.

     For much more on this story, including an explanation of the revaluation process and its impact on property values in Loris, see today’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.