By Stan Welch
T’is the budget season in government circles, and the fiduciary pollen is affecting the Anderson County Council as well. The Council’s finance committee met Tuesday afternoon and began reviewing the budgets of the county’s various departments.
During a sparsely attended session, the finance committee, chaired by Councilman Tommy Dunn, along with Councilwoman Cindy Wilson (D7), and Councilman Ken Waters(D6), reviewed the budget requests of several departments, including the finance department itself.
During the last several years, the state budget and the General Assembly’s willingness and ability to return tax revenues to the counties have been severely impacted. But County Administrator Rusty Burns, in an exclusive interview with The Journal, said, “I think we can safely say that the state and Anderson County are dealing with the last Depression budget that we will have to face. Housing starts are up, and other economic indicators are finally rising, and more importantly, stabilizing.”
During the tough economic times since 2008, every county in SC has experienced significant cuts in the aid to local subdivisions, or the percentage of tax revenues returned to the counties by the General Assembly. Over the course of the last four years, more than ten million dollars has been cut from the county budget.
In addition, the county’s bonded indebtedness has been significantly reduced by the simple but expedient, tactic of allowing expiring bonds to do so, instead of rolling them into new expenditures; as had been the practice under the former administrator. That results not only in reduced interest expenditures, but it rebuilds the county’s credit rating.
“Our revenues are essentially stable,” said Burns. “We don’t expect much increase from the state, but a small increase is possible, and welcome. Our expenses are also stable. They vary from department to department; but all in all, there is no tax increase expected in the general fund at this time. The Council has approved a one mil increase in the EMS levy. That is reflected in the budget.”
Burns reminded the small audience, which included District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, that the school districts in the county actually levy and consume approximately seventy per cent of the taxes imposed on the residents of Anderson County. “We are actually functioning on a little less than a third of the taxes collected. I think our staff and our department heads do a wonderful job of providing essential services, in light of that fact.”
The next budget workshop will take place on April 30 at 1 p.m. The public is welcome, as well as any other members of Council who wish to attend.