For the second straight year it took a motion to reconsider to allow the budget for Greenwood County to pass by the slimmest of margins during Tuesday’s regular meeting of Greenwood County Council. The vote on third and final reading initially failed by a 3-4 vote and passed 4-3 following the motion to reconsider and an amendment.
The current year’s budget nearly stalled at second reading after the ordinance failed by a 3-3 vote, with one member of council absent. It took two amendments and a motion to reconsider for the budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, to pass.
Following a lengthy discussion at the administration and finance committee meeting, council amended the budget to allocate two mills to the general fund budget, one mill to the capital projects budget and 2.6 mills to a special fund for the construction of an animal shelter and/or the further funding of the county fire service. It was the additional $10 added to the fire fee at second reading of the budget which nearly caused the budget process to start over.
The fee addition was part of the budget which passed second reading and would bring the fire service about an additional $180,000 for operation and maintenance. After third reading of the budget failed, with Mark Allison, Edith Childs, Bob Fisher and Steve Brown casting dissenting votes, Allison called for a motion to reconsider and council passed a budget amendment removing the fire fee increase. A new vote on the amended budget was called for and Childs flipped her vote to pass the budget by a 4-3 vote, with Brown, Allison and Fisher dissenting.
The budget is balanced and includes an overall tax decrease of half a mill. The decrease is the result of the county’s decision to retire all of its debt using funds raised with the capital project sales tax initially earmarked for projects at Buzzard Roost Dam. One of the projects will no longer be required after the county successfully appealed the requirement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to perform the upgrade. The county had 6.1 mills allocated for debt retirement.
Council had considered moving two mills to the general fund budget, one mill to the capital projects and the additional 3.1 mills for the animal shelter and fire service, but acting county attorney Stephen Baggett said the county would technically be raising operational millage, though there is not net effect to taxpayers, and the amount that millage can be raised is capped by state law.
Brown said the biggest sticking point for him was the addition of six new positions in the budget.
“We grew government,” Brown said following the meeting. “We added six new positions. We added a position in administration, one at the detention center, one at the Magistrate’s Office, an investigator at the Solicitor’s Office and two Sheriff’s deputies. I think we have a problem with how we allocate our money.”
In spite of the tension that marked the budget discussions over the last several weeks, Brown thanked the county staff for their hard work during the process.
“I have asked a lot of questions,” Brown said. “(County treasurer) Sharon (Setzer) and (county manager) Toby (Chappell) have been very patient with me and have answered all my questions. I am very thankful for their hard work and the hard work of everyone involved in the budget process.”