Sumter commissioners say ‘very few’ complained about 25 percent tax increase

After sitting through two contentious hearings last month before enacting a 25 percent property tax increase, Sumter County commissioners had some additional comments at a quieter, sparsely attended meeting Tuesday night in Bushnell.

“There was a whole lot of talk and a whole lot of complaining from very few people,” said Commissioner Doug Gilpin, although hundreds of people attended the hearings. “Most people realize it’s a very small tax increase after 14 years of no tax increase.”

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Gilpin said growth is important to the county’s vitality.

“This is a wonderful county and we’ve had rock solid growth for many years and we’ll have rock solid growth for years to come,” he said.

Villagers talk about attracting stores like Costco, Trader Joe’s or P.F. Chang’s, but Gilpin said that won’t be possible without growth.

”You don’t get that without the rooftops to support it,” he said.

Chairman Don Burgess said he was bothered by the booing of the crowd at the public hearings for a young woman who said growth helped her get a job and a chamber of commerce official.

“You can boo me, but don’t boo Sumter County,” he said.

Commissioner Al Butler said many people who attended the hearings didn’t seem interested in the reasons for the tax increase.

“Many people weren’t ready to receive good information,” he said. “People got a little bit long and some of them got off track.”

Commissioner Steve Printz thanked County Administrator Bradley Arnold for his presentation of the rationale for the tax increase.

Commissioners approved a $252.2-million budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year after the public hearing on Sept. 24 at the Savannah Center.