By Steve Plunkett

For the first time in 16 years Briny Breezes will not levy the maximum property tax rate allowed by state law.

On July 27 the Town Council tentatively approved a rate of $3.75 per $1,000 of taxable value, down 62.5% from the $10 per $1,000 the town has collected every year since 2009.

But the lower property tax bills will be offset by higher annual assessments to Briny Breezes Inc., the co-op that leases land to residents. The corporation is boosting its payment for police and fire-rescue services to $473,007, or 70% instead of 31.6%.

The total tax base is $85.6 million, up 14.5% from the previous year’s $74.7 million.

The tentative rate, which can be cut further in September but not raised, will finance a $949,000 operating budget that includes what Town Manager Bill Thrasher called a “minimal” $12,000 for capital expense items.

“I think they are pretty much what they have been in previous years,” Thrasher said.

His proposed budget includes no pay raise for himself and a 6.4% boost for Town Clerk Sandi DuBose.

If the proposed rate is approved, the owner of a mobile home valued at $150,000 would pay $562.50 in property taxes instead of $1,500 at the customary millage.

The number juggling will allow Briny to raise taxes in the future to pay for loans to restore the town’s sea walls and improve the drainage system. Thrasher has said he hopes to have dollar amounts and apply for grants next month.

Early this year he said that the town could leverage a $2.5 million loan into $22.3 million worth of improvements.

In other action, Alderwoman Liz Loper asked her council colleagues to authorize Thrasher to investigate adding seating space to the dais and updating Town Hall’s sound system.

“I have researched the other cities around, and all of the town managers that they have, they do sit on the dais with their aldermen,” Loper said.

The council also canceled its Aug. 24 meeting and combined its November and December meetings, normally on the fourth Thursday of the month, into one meeting on Dec. 7 to avoid conflicts with holidays.

Aldermen will next meet for their first budget hearing at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 14, with a regular meeting at 4 p.m. Sept. 28 followed by the final budget hearing at 5:01.

Cutting the tax rate undid action the council took in 2009 — almost tripling the millage to hit the $10 limit — to give residents a break on their federal income taxes. At the time, the corporation was transferring 70% to 80% of fire-rescue and police costs to the town’s budget. With the higher tax rate, the transfer dropped to 29% of those costs.

Residents, meanwhile, got an income tax advantage by being able to deduct the higher property taxes, something they did not get when paying for the services through the corporation. But changes in tax law over the past decade have erased that tax advantage for many residents, Thrasher has said.

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