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Local governments hit by lower state funding

Posted: April 18, 2013 4:51 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2013 5:00 a.m.

During a recent Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce legislative forum, the topic of local funding was brought before the panel, which included State Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.

Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford asked the panel regarding if the city of Camden would receive the local funding it is supposed to receive from the state’s general fund revenues. State law says 4.5 percent of the state’s general fund revenue from the previous year’s tax collections should be distributed to local cities and counties. This distribution is based on population, with 83 percent of the fund going to counties and 17 percent to cities. In recent years however, local governments, such as Camden and Kershaw County have not received funds based on the 4.5 percent formula.

While Sheheen said that there could be an increase in funds for the local government, he indicated Kershaw County will not see the full 4.5 percent again this year.

Counties such as Charleston, Richland, Horry, Greenville and Spartanburg received more than $10 million in funding for the 2012-13 fiscal year while counties such as Kershaw County received around $2 million in funding.

Councilwoman Drakeford also said this is a time when local government funding needs to be going up, but instead is on the decrease. Though legislators have fought to try and get local South Carolina governments the 4.5 percent, according to Sheheen, they were not fully successful.

“Four or five years (ago), the local government fund was around $220,000 but has now been at approximately $148,000 for the last three years,” Camden City Manager Mel Pearson said. “That difference in funding has affected the equipment that we would have bought and it has affected our ability to spend money on projects. We have equipment that needs to be replaced and the difference in funding is enough that we can’t buy even with leases of three to five years, the equipment that we need. A big part of that has been that we haven’t been able to buy police vehicles. That’s the service area we’re most behind on in terms of equipment purchases.”

Pearson said that if the city received the $70,000 difference between the 2009 and present fiscal years, they would be able to replace public safety vehicles and other equipment that is needed.

He said that public safety is one of the areas that the city is most behind on in terms of equipment to be replaced and projects to be funded. Along with public safety vehicles, such as police cars, the reduction in funds has lessened the city’s ability to buy a garbage collection truck and maintain the city’s current human resources.

“The lack of government funding has affected our ability to buy public safety vehicles and has impacted our ability to take care of our human resources,” Pearson said.

Though funding for the 2014-15 fiscal year has not been set, Pearson said he hopes that there is an increase from what it has been in recent years.

Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter said the county also received less money in the past five years than the county is supposed to receive from the state, but received a slight increase last year. Although there has been an increase since what the local fund was five years ago last year, Carpenter said he expects the coming year’s local fund to remain flat.

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