Councilmembers have questions, concerns on County budget

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By Stan Welch

By all appearances, the budget process underway within the Anderson County Council is going to be contentious, despite efforts by Chairman Tom Allen to encourage the individual members to prepare and to research any issues they have with the proposed budget.

A proposed budget was presented by County Administrator Rusty Burns and his staff a month ago, at which time Chairman Allen encouraged the council members to review the proposal and speak with various staffers to resolve any questions they had, in advance of the budget workshops he intends to schedule.

It was clear Tuesday night that the results of those efforts were mixed at best. District Three councilman Eddie Moore offered a resolution declaring the Council’s intent to allocate future savings as a result of the paying down of bonded indebtedness to reducing the millage. Councilwoman Cindy Wilson seconded the motion.

After brief discussion, Chairman Allen moved to table the resolution because the budget process isn’t far enough along to determine precisely how much debt service the County will have to satisfy this budget year. That motion was passed, but discussion continued for a good while afterwards, in contradiction of parliamentary procedures.

Several other Council members had comments about the budget process as well. Ms. Wilson complained that she had several questions that remained unanswered and she also complained that no budget workshops have been held.

Allen accepted the credit, or blame, as he said for the lack of workshops, explaining his hopes that members would do some research on their own. He added that he plans to announce a workshop sometime next week. The Council has just under sixty days to pass a budget; otherwise, a continuing resolution maintaining current budget levels would be required.

Councilwoman Gracie Floyd expressed her concerns that certain members of the council would take over the workshops and spend too much time asking questions and offering information. She referred to people who tell you how to build a clock just because you ask them what time it is. The reference was apparently to Ms. Wilson, who relentlessly questioned many of the budgets proposed by former administrator Joey Preston.

Councilman and finance chairman Francis Crowder stated that he is not interested in being “re-educated about what all the departments do. I remember what they do. We need to focus on the budget itself.”

In other business, Council gave first reading to an ordinance that would establish additional zoning categories, a move that Councilman Dunn said would give the planning department more tools. “Right now, our categories are so broad and vague that a lot of good uses are denied because people are afraid of what else might be able to locate in a place because of our ordinances.”

The proposal would establish three new categories: low traffic density office district, blended neighborhood commercial district, and planned commercial district. Dunn assured everyone that the new categories would not extend zoning into new areas, but simply establish new categories in areas that are already zoned.