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Kershaw county council approves annual budget

Posted: June 19, 2014 5:31 p.m.
Updated: June 20, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Councilman Stephen Smoak successfully introduced budget amendments that provide for the hiring of four new officers at the Kershaw County Detention Center and another that will put money in the sheriff’s office budget for deputies who work overtime.

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Kershaw County property owners will see a higher amount on their next tax bill, as the county council gave final approval to the annual budget that goes into effect July 1. Council met Tuesday in a meeting postponed from the previous week due to the primary election.

The budget discussion started with some councilmen proposing amendments to the balanced budget that had passed the first and second readings in April and May. Jimmy Jones made a motion to pay for three school resource officers (SROs) and two elementary school crossing guards with money from the county’s reserve fund, which he said stands at $9.5 million. The resource officers have been paid by a grant that ends July 1. The yearly cost for the officers and crossing guards is $188,541.

"You can’t really have too much in reserves, however, we shouldn’t have excess money sitting there and then try to go out and raise millage or taxes on citizens. We should use what we have first," Jones said.

Councilman Stephen Smoak said he supports keeping the SROs and crossing guards, but opposed using reserve money, as the officers are an ongoing expense every year, not a one-time cost.

"I cannot vote tonight for any expense that is any recurring expense that will be funded out of our reserves. Unless we’re just going to fund this for one year, this isn’t going to go away. In fact, the cost is only going to go up," Smoak said. "For any recurring cost, not just this one, it’s a poor budgeting practice to continue to take from your reserves."

Council Chairman Gene Wise said he had discussed the matter with school district officials who were agreeable to help in paying for SROs in future years with money they anticipate receiving from the state. The motion passed by a 4-3 vote with Jones, Wise, C.R. Miles and Willie Mickle voting to approve and Smoak, Tom Gardner and Sammie Tucker Jr. opposing.

Gardner made a motion to hire an additional planner for the Planning and Zoning Department, to be paid $70,000 a year with fee increases for building permits and other services the department provides. The motion passed unanimously.

Jones made a motion to give the 5th District Solicitor $60,000; $40,000 from the reserve fund and $20,000 from a tax increase. The motion did not receive a second and died. Jones then offered to have the entire $60,000 come from the reserve fund. That motion also received no second.

Smoak offered a package of amendments including the hiring of four new officers for the county detention center for $193,000 and paying sheriff’s office deputies true time-and-a-half overtime rather than the current system of "Chinese overtime" in which the officer’s pay gets lower the more overtime he or she works. He also advocated opening a branch library in the area of North Central High School and giving all county employees a 2-percent pay raise. The total cost of all the proposals was estimated to be $514,000. Smoak suggested a 1.6-mil tax increase and an $8 hike in the county’s annual solid waste disposal fee to bring in the funds needed for his proposals. Jones objected to the items being lumped together into one motion.

"I will never put my hand up for a bundle such as this. I’m not going to support a bundle," Jones said.

The motion failed 3-4, with Smoak, Tucker and Miles voting to approve. Smoak then restated two of his proposals individually. He said the sheriff’s office overtime issue could be resolved with a .4-mil tax increase, which would mean a slightly less than $4 annual tax increase for a home valued at $200,000. That motion passed 6-1, with Tucker voting against, saying approving the overtime for deputies was a pay raise and he would not support it if the rest of the county employees did not also see a raise.

"I cannot give one and not the other. Our employees are in dire need," Tucker said.

Regarding the detention center officers, Smoak said a .9-mil increase would cover the cost of wages, benefits and related expenses for four employees, who are needed to bring the detention center up to the minimum standards required by state regulations. The motion passed 4-3, with Smoak, Tucker, Miles and Gardner voting to approve.

With that, the council then voted unanimously to approve the budget. In other business, council passed a resolution endorsing a proclamation thanking Camden Military Academy (CMA) and Headmaster Col. Eric Boland for their contributions to the community.

"The cadets learn to accept responsibility for their success and failures in the classroom, on the athletic fields and in their military role," Wise read from the proclamation. "The academy contributes to the economy of Kershaw County through local dining facilities, purchases and overnight stays for parents, which includes visiting restaurants and local businesses. The academy attracts people from all over the world."

The proclamation also noted CMA hosting the annual Special Olympics for the past five years and the many other contributions they make to local parades, other activities and events.

Council passed a resolution authorizing a letter to be sent to the SC Department of Transportation requesting "No Through Trucks" signs on Ivo Circle and the county road that connects Ivo Circle to Greenhill Road.

Council also passed third and final reading on an ordinance that will allow the county to set fees for septic tank pump out services to dispose of the waste at the county wastewater treatment facility and passed first readings on several ordinances pertaining to changes to the zoning and land use regulations.



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