Republican Primary for Berkeley County Auditor

Candidates discuss qualifications and changes
Two contenders are competing in the Republican Party primary for Berkeley County auditor.
Wilson Baggett and Molly Owens-John discuss their qualifications and what changes they plan to bring to office if elected. The county auditor is responsible for administering personal and property tax bills for the county.
What qualifications would the ideal candidate for auditor possess, and how do you meet those qualifications? 
Wilson Baggett: The auditor is charged with applying values to vehicles, accepting business and personal property returns, and then creating tax bills for those and all other taxable property in Berkeley County. The auditor is also responsible for accepting certain exemption applications, such as the homestead exemption, and assisting with South Carolina Department of Revenue applications, depending on the need. My 30 years of experience in public service for Berkeley County, including directing the real property services office, have provided me with hands-on experience in meeting taxpayer needs. The customer service my office provides in person and the online access available for all applications and basic services reflect my ability to meet the taxpayer on every level. The upgrades I have made are trend-setting and effective, leading other South Carolina counties to visit our office in an effort to follow our lead. My goal is and has always been to provide the highest level of service and efficiency to the taxpayer, and the results are measurable.
Molly Owens-John: The ideal candidate for the Berkeley County Auditor should possess qualifications in three key areas: experience, dedication, and knowledge. I currently serve as the deputy auditor, a role I have diligently worked toward over the past 17 years. Starting at the frontline of customer service, I have progressively advanced, gaining comprehensive experience in all facets of the office operations. This journey has equipped me with the ability to step in and assist whenever necessary, a practice I will continue if elected auditor. Through my current role, I have developed a thorough understanding of the auditor’s responsibilities, both by example and hands-on work. My commitment to the taxpayers is unwavering, and I prioritize addressing their needs regarding property inquiries and accurate information. Our office collaborates with various state and local agencies to ensure precise billing in accordance with state laws. I am dedicated to working with and for the taxpayers of Berkeley County. To comply with state regulations, the auditor’s office must maintain accreditation and stay updated on evolving tax laws. I have consistently attended the required 18 hours of continuing education credits annually in Columbia and have participated in all relevant seminars over the past five years. This ensures that our office remains qualified to serve Berkeley County effectively.
What changes need to be made at the auditor’s office, and how will you implement those changes? 
Wilson Baggett: For five years, the auditor’s office has failed to install a $2 million software system purchased by the county to improve the quality of service and efficiency for the citizens of Berkeley County. This failure to install the system by the current auditor’s staff has not only prevented necessary modernization but also has created additional costs to taxpayers, including labor and unnecessary postage costs. While neighboring Dorchester County residents are benefiting from the same software update, there is no reasonable explanation – by current auditor office staff – as to why this $2 million software is not available to Berkeley County residents. As the next auditor, I will get it running, just as I have five program updates in my current role as director of Real Property Services. I will also provide clearer guidelines to the many exemptions and forms the taxpayers need and an ease of access. The current auditor access portal does not provide online applications nor links to the South Carolina Department of Revenue. My campaign was established based on the very concerns I mentioned, and I will accomplish these needed changes for you.
Molly Owens-John: The auditor’s office must adapt to the significant growth Berkeley County has experienced. Currently, we are the sole office serving the entire county, and it is imperative to make our services more accessible to taxpayers. I have already implemented measures to reduce wait times for phone calls and expedite responses to emails and voicemails. Over the past five years, I have collaborated with software programmers and our IT department to develop a more efficient application process. However, it is crucial to note that other counties working with this new software have encountered significant issues, indicating that the software is not yet ready for implementation. These issues have resulted in late mailings of real property notices, incorrect assessments, and prolonged implementation periods. For instance, one county has been working on implementing watercraft billing for over seven years and ultimately reverted to their previous system due to persistent problems. Unlike my opponent, I am fully aware of these challenges and will not permit the implementation of a program that is not ready, thereby avoiding negative impacts on the taxpayers of Berkeley County. I am committed to ensuring that the software meets our stringent requirements before its launch. While minor adjustments may be necessary as we adapt to the county’s evolving needs, the taxpayers remain our top priority. The auditor’s office will continue to provide exemplary service, guiding and assisting taxpayers to ensure a positive experience.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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