By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Council finally removed the ‘interim’ from county administrator Rusty Burns’ title, ending a stretch of approximately five years during which the issue, which really wasn’t much of an issue, persisted.
The Council had intended to take the action at the last Council meeting, but the minutes of the personnel committee meeting at which the recommendation was approved were unavailable. Council chairman and personnel committee member Tommy Dunn postponed the final vote so that the minutes could be on hand. “We don’t want anyone to say that we tried to sneak anything by them,” said Dunn at the time.
The minutes, which were very brief, indicated that the committee spent fifty three minutes in executive session, presumably reviewing other applications and discussing the ultimate decision to formally and finally make Burns the county administrator.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson spent several minutes reciting a long and well known litany of offenses and transgressions which she traced back to the former Councils and to former county administrator Joey Preston. She then related how, under Burns’ guidance, the county had reduced its bonded indebtedness, attracted a remarkable amount of new industries, and generally tightened up the administration of the county.
Oddly, Wilson then abstained from voting on the issue at hand. Councilwoman Gracie Floyd also cited her usual litany of actions taken by the Council whose election sparked many of the actions by the lame duck 2008 Council, which led to protracted litigation. “People were fired, and several of us were disrespected. That has changed under Mr. Burns’ leadership.” The vote to make Burns’ position final was six in favor and one abstention.
The Council approved various ordinances involving tax incentives for potential businesses and industries considering locating or expanding in Anderson County. Such incentives are historically designed to ameliorate tax burdens resulting from the state’s corporate tax rates, which are higher than those of neighboring states.
The incentives are tied to agreed upon levels of capital investment and jobs creation by the companies. Councilwoman Floyd questioned economic development director Burriss Nelson about whether those thresholds are being met locally, saying that recent news reports about companies elsewhere in the state indicate that they are not.
Nelson told Floyd he would provide her with the appropriate statistics, but assured the council that all performance parameters were being met. “All companies receiving incentives in 2010 have already complied with all requirements. Those from 2011 are at a seventy per cent compliance rate, while 2012 incentive receivers are at fifty per cent. Those from last year are at approximately forty five per cent and a couple of the companies from this year have already complied. All of our corporate citizens are on or ahead of schedule to meet their requirements,” said Nelson.
The Council also passed a resolution asking that the General Assembly comply with the laws establishing aid to political subdivisions. The laws determine how much of the taxes sent by the counties to the state are returned. There is a set formula, but during the recent economic difficulties, the General Assembly has withheld more than the law allows, at least according to the County.
Recently, the approximately nine million dollars that the County should have been reimbursed has shrunk to seven million dollars. The Council approved the resolution proposed by Councilwoman Floyd unanimously.
The Council has also scheduled a meeting with the County delegation on Thursday to discuss this issue, as well as several others related to funding, and to increasing the amount of road paving that is undertaken.