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County Council passes FY 2019 budget

Posted: July 2, 2018 4:28 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council passed third and final reading of the county’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget during its June 26 meeting.

The total budget is balanced, comes in at $44.14 million and does not require a tax increase.

During its previous meeting, on June 14, council approved second reading of the budget, with several amendments, including:

• Restricting a portion of the reserve fund equal to three months of the previous year’s general fund budget for the purpose of cash flow, as well as an additional one month of the previous year general fund to respond to emergencies or disasters.

• Transferring $103,120 from the sewer fund to the general fund, which includes $35,000 to go to upgrade a part time deputy coroner position to full time; $21,750 to be allocated to outside agencies, including Camden First Community Development, the Clemson Extension Service, Kershaw Board of Disabilities and Special Needs, Kershaw Conservation District, Santee-Wateree Regional Transportation Authority, The ALPHA Center, United Way of Kershaw County and Wateree Community Action. The remaining $46,370 would replace funds from the reserve fund to help balance the budget.

• Removing Wateree Community Actions from the list of outside agencies to be funded (as originally listed in the previous amendment).

• Eliminating a $400,000 line item from the capital budget designated for the new park on the Wateree River and instead placing that money in capital reserves.

• Adding $250,000 to the capital budget for The ALPHA Center to construct a new building, with restrictions that the remaining funds, which are to come from sale of the present property, state funds, and a fundraising campaign, be in hand before The ALPHA Center receives the county’s funds; that the funds be used for new construction only; and that county funds be used within a 24-month period. If the 24 months elapse without the previous requirements being met and council has not made changes to the restrictions, the funds revert back to the county.

Council added to these amendments during the third reading discussion. Additional amendments included one to transfer $100,000 to Central Carolina Technical College’s (CCTC) for the school’s operations budget.

“This would allow CCTC to keep tuition costs stable and keep the Mechtronics program in place,” Councilman Tom Gardner, who made the motion, said.

The school had initially asked for nearly $190,000 in order to prevent an increase in tuition of $7 per credit hour and in order to fund an engineering teacher the school had hired for the mechatronics program.

Council members were generally receptive to the request, however, Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. noted that, while he is very supportive of CCTC, he planned to vote against this amendment, as he saw it as a short term “band-aid” solution and wants to find a long-term solution for CCTC.

“I think we should consider creating a millage for CCTC,” Tucker said. “That way, the school grows with the program and with the economy. It is self sustaining.”

Councilman Jimmy Jones, however, said he was not prepared to support any new taxes or tax increases.

“Councilman Gardner’s proposal is sound and it does not require a tax increase,” he said. “I think we have the money now to fully fund the original request, if council wants to do so.”

Gardner noted that the $100,000 adequately meets CCTC’s needs for the coming year and that council and CCTC need to communicate further about funding mechanisms.

Chairman Julian Burns also noted that the request was “somewhat last minute” and the offer of $100,000 is a good faith effort to help, despite making a significant dent in the county’s own ability to work on projects and provide services that are also going unfunded this year.

Council passed the amendment 6-1, with only Tucker voting against.

Council also passed an amendment, motioned by Councilman Ben Connell, to transfer $66,800 to the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office budget for the purpose of funding at least one school resource officer (SRO) position. The money would come from sewer fund revenues, traffic fines and franchise fees, none of which are 4 percent revenues, which the state attorney general has said would violate Act 388. The act prohibits school operations from being funded through revenues generated from taxes on primary residences.

Connell said he had vetted his numbers with the county administrator and all the assumptions seemed reasonable. He also pointed out that, while council had not voted to approve a millage increase for the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees, council still technically and legally could do so, and in fact might be in a better position to make such a decision later in the summer when the final millage calculations were more stable.

Tucker, however, took some issue with the proposal.

“You had ample opportunity last meeting to vote for two proposals, one from me and one from Councilman Jones, that would have funded at least three SROs,” Tucker said. “You told me you weren’t prepared to vote for it because you hadn’t had a chance to vet it. Yet we receive this, literally today … the three SROs we proposed were there for a reason -- we need at least three. There is no child’s life worth another child’s life.”

Connell said there has been continuing debate as to the most effective way of distributing the costs of funding SRO positions between KCSD, Kershaw County, and the municipalities and he believes council needs more time to determine that.

Jones noted that, while $66,000 was not optimal, Connell’s proposal did not call for a tax increase and he would be willing to support it.

Burns noted that KCSD was able to fund 17 new full time positions but did not fund SROs.

Tucker asked if there was anything preventing council from adding to the school district millage in December. County Attorney Ken DuBose said tax notices will go out in September, and doing that would require sending out new notices.
DuBose, in answering a question about the district’s fiscal autonomy, said the school district has absolute autonomy over their operating millage, but cannot raise that millage without county council approval.

Councilman Al Bozard said he would support the motion, but stated he believes more SROs are needed.

Council passed this amendment 4-3, with Connell, Bozard, Jones and Dennis Arledge voting in favor and Burns, Gardner and Tucker voting against it.

Jones then made a motion to take $250,000 from the economic development budget for the purpose of funding school safety and SROs. The money would come from Fee In Lieu of Tax funds, reducing salaries, fringe benefits -- including a $12,000 a year car allowance for the economic development director -- and some contracted services.

Bozard said he believes some changes need to be made to the economic development budget, but did not think this proposal was the right one to go about that.

“We already made changes in the way we do economic development,” Gardner said. “We made decisions in 2015 to that effect. We had no product to sell; we are developing that product with the shell buildings, for example. I feel good about those decisions and I won’t support this.”

Burns pointed out that the county has had some successes and that council and the county are only two years into its efforts.

“We’ve had new jobs and $250 million in investment,” Burns said. “It takes staff and effort not only to recruit new business, but to grow the current business.”

Council voted down this amendment 1-6, with Jones casting the only yes vote.

With no other amendments to discuss, council passed the budget unanimously.

In other business, council:

• heard from the county’s All-America City delegation;

• voted, 3-4, against a motion from Jones for the county to start providing live streaming services of council meetings, with Jones, Connell and Bozard voting in favor and Burns, Arledge, Gardner and Tucker voting against;

• passed third and final reading of an intergovernmental agreement between the county and Central Carolina Technical College regarding use and maintenance of campus facilities;

• passed first reading of an ordinance authorizing the execution of a first amendment to option agreement between Kershaw County and Earnest Health Holdings, a Delaware-based corporation; and

• heard an update on the S.C. Equine Park.

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