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Record 24 amendments to proposed county budget

Second reading passes with 5.1 mils increase for EMS

Posted: May 11, 2017 4:17 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council unanimously approved a record 24 amendments to the county’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget and then unanimously passed that amended budget on second reading, with Councilman Jimmy Jones absent. Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. made the long motion to include the 24 amendments, most, if not all, of which his fellow councilmen appeared to expect. 

Ahead of Tucker listing his amendments, Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter introduced the budget, which passed first reading by title only on April 25. Carpenter said the budget as proposed is balanced with one exception.

“The exception, of course, is EMS,” Carpenter said. “After discussions with council, the budget that is presented to council tonight for EMS does include a millage increase. State law allows us a maximum, going back three years, of 5.1 mils. That is what is reflected in the budget…. All other aspects of the budget -- all fees, all taxes -- stay the same.”

Tucker’s amendments mostly dealt with cuts, but also included some additions. They are:

1) Amend the treasurer’s budget to reflect a $5,000 per year increase to the treasurer’s salary.

2) Amend the coroner’s budget to reflect a $5,000 per year increase to the coroner’s salary.

3) Amend all department budgets to reflect a 2 percent cost of living increase for all regular employees, including (those covered by the) proprietary and enterprise funds.

4) Amend the outside agencies budget to reflect an increase to Central Carolina Technical College of $100,0000, with $50,000 intended to support Carolina Scholars and $50,000 to support operations.

5) Amend the sheriff’s budget to reflect the addition of two new deputies.

6) Amend the capital budget to remove one car from the sheriff’s office.

7) Amend the capital budget to add one vehicle for the coroner (done by removing the sheriff’s office vehicle).

8) Amend the capital budget to remove $49,000 from district accounts -- these are the $7,000 per councilman discretionary accounts that have been used in the past to fund capital needs in each district.

9) Amend “Non Departmental” to remove $169,000 from professional services.

10) Amend the county council budget to remove $10,855 from a codification project.

11) Amend “Contribution Agencies” to remove $19,000 from (the) Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

12) Amend the finance department’s budget to remove $10,000 from salaries.

13) Amend the attorney’s budget to remove $10,000 from professional services.

14) Amend the planning and zoning budget to remove $12,000 from salaries.

15) Amend the public works budget to remove $25,000 from fuel.

16) Amend the coroner’s budget to remove $5,000 from autopsies.

17) Amend the sheriff’s budget to remove $50,000 from fuel.

18) Amend the sheriff’s budget to remove $10,000 from fleet maintenance.

19) Amend outside agencies budget to remove $13,478 from Elgin - Contracted Services.

20) Amend outside agencies to remove $63,000 for SROs - Camden.

21) Amend voter registration to remove $24,000 from part time salaries.

22) Amend fleet maintenance to remove $12,000 from budget.

23) Amend “Non Departmental” to add $40,000 to transfer from “14 Proprietary” (sewer).

24) Amend “Non Departmental” to add $40,000 to transfer from economic development.

In all, the amendments result in approximately $510,000 in additions, approximately $434,300 in line item reductions and approximately $80,000 in revenue adjustments, according to Tucker.

At Burns’ request, Carpenter explained that the $169,000 from professional services (Amendment 9) served, essentially, as a “place holder” knowing council would have ideas about how to actually allocate those funds. Carpenter said council had planned to conduct some studies, including -- according to Burns -- green space, ballparks and recreational services. Burns said another work session is planned for this coming Tuesday to discuss those possible studies to address the reallocation of those funds.

Tucker added that his amendments do not rely on new money.

“There is no increase in the millage, for which we have no room to do anyway. There’re no new fees hidden in any of this. This is all about our staff and administrators making cuts and making tough decisions … just cuts and sacrifices,” Tucker said.

Burns said the county has made a “first priority” of protecting EMS, which the county took over in recent years from KershawHealth after the hospital system went private under Capella Healthcare. Tucker agreed, saying the county “knew (EMS) was coming” and that the county received some “bridge money” to begin with.

“Well, now we’re here. As the old folks like to say, the chickens have come home to roost and we have to make it work,” Tucker said. “Thanks to Act 388, which I did not vote for in 2006, it gives you limitations and we’re doing what we’re able to do, what we can work with, through the legal system of Act 388. And that’s why we have no millage to do any more or to give any more to our departmental or our employees.”

Councilman Ben Connell asked Tucker about the $13,479 for Elgin-contracted services. Tucker said that was for a crossing guard in the town limits of Elgin. He said council members have spoken with Elgin Mayor Melissa Emmons and members of Elgin Town Council about having the town take over that position.

Councilman Dennis Arledge asked about the $50,000 removal for fuel for the sheriff’s office. Carpenter confirmed that it does not actually take $50,000 out of the sheriff’s budget, but is an adjustment from the current year’s budget based on what the sheriff’s office actually expects to spend on fuel in FY 2018. He said if for any reason the $250,000 proposed for that line item is insufficient, the county would make other adjustments to compensate.

“We will never have (patrol) cars on the side of the road running out of gas,” Carpenter said.

Councilman Tom Gardner pointed out that Tucker’s amendments were a result of “very painstaking” work.

“I commend our staff for going back through and looking at virtually every line item that we have,” Gardner said. “Before you jump to conclusions and say, ‘well, we’ve been wasting money and you were able to cut this now,’ that’s not the case. We actually took year-to-date figures to see where we were trending and we have done a great job -- staff, department heads -- in saving money. So, where we were able to cut these things is where we were trending under what we had budgeted so we’re able to cut this -- we’re not cutting services in any way, shape or form. We’re able to shift this money because we had nowhere else to go. EMS eats up all of our millage.”

Gardner said citizens should appreciate the many man-hours spent to “get this trimmed down.”

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, Lugoff Fire-Rescue Chief Dennis Ray presented his district’s budget to council. A common thread in both budgets is the impact of a bill signed by Gov. Henry McMaster in late April to shore up the state’s pension plan by forcing employers -- including governmental entities such as Kershaw County -- to contribute 2 percent more starting July 1 and then 1 percent more to the plan each year thereafter until 2022.

Answering a question from Connell, Carpenter said some of the increases built into the proposed FY 2018 budget for individual departments are solely based on the pension cost increase. Also, Carpenter said reserve funds in the new budget -- as previously authorized by council for future fiscal years -- will only be used to build EMS stations and to purchase necessary equipment for the county to take over the hauling and management of waste and garbage.

“In other words, we went to reserves early in this budget, contrary to what we normally do, in order to reduce the tax burden on our citizens,” Burns said. “We knew going in two years ago that we would have a tax burden with EMS…. I commend this body for doing the courageous and right thing and, indeed, the only thing we could have done in this case.”

Tucker concluded the discussion by pointing out that council was dealing with the amendment on second, instead of third reading so citizens would have time to “chew” on them before third reading, which is scheduled for council’s June 13 meeting.

At that point, council unanimously approved both Tucker’s amendments and the budget as amended.

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