County Council members discuss state funding to counties with legislators

0
426

By Stan Welch

A joint meeting of the Anderson County Council and the Anderson County Legislative Delegation was held last Thursday to give the Council, or at least some members of it, a chance to gripe about the level of state funding the County is receiving; while also giving the delegation the chance to essentially remind the Council that times are hard, and they are lucky to be getting as much as they are.

The situation began sometime back, when the General Assembly created a formula to determine how much of the taxes that they received from the various counties they would return to the various counties.

The Local Government Fund, (LGF) was designed to offset the costs of state services and functions, provided at the local level.

A recent example is the storm water runoff department that DHEC has mandated that each county will establish and maintain. The state, while passing the mandate along, fails to provide any additional funding for the program, which is currently budgeted at more than a half million dollars annually.

There are many other programs that the state requires but does not specifically fund. According to state code, the LGF should be funded in the amount of 4.5% of the previous year’s state general fund revenues. The counties are to receive 83.3% of that amount and the cities 16.7%, based on population.

When the LGF was established the formula seemed more than adequate. The problem is that the revenues that were being sent back and forth from the counties to Columbia and back have shrunk considerably over the last several years.

An analysis by the County Finance Department indicates that since 2007, the LGF, also known as aid to local subdivisions, has been reduced by approximately $11.6 million. Each year since 2009, the General Assembly has voted to suspend the LGF and has appropriated amounts far smaller than the formula would mandate were it enforced.

Therein lies the rub for the member of the County Council who requested the unusual meeting.

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson had previously enjoyed the support of Councilman Eddie Moore in her quest to restore prior LGF funding levels. Moore, however, lost his primary race for reelection, and did not even attend the work session last week.

District One Councilman Frances Crowder, who has raised the issue in the past, seems to have come around to the delegation’s viewpoint. He expressed his relief and gratitude when delegation Chairman Mike Gambrell assured him that the level of funding would not be reduced any more this year.

Anderson County received $7.1 million in aid to local subdivisions for fiscal year 2014-2015. That amount represented just over 11% of the County’s general fund budget, but it was also $9 million less than the cost of state mandated programs.

Rep. Gambrell acknowledged the shortfall in revenues, but pointed out that the pie being portioned out is simply smaller than it has been in the past. Gambrell, and several other delegation members, assured the Council and the audience of approximately fifty people, that roads and bridges are going to be a hot issue in the coming legislative year.

Gambrell also pointed out several programs and avenues for funding that the delegation has used to funnel more tax money back to the county; programs like PARD grants, funding for infrastructure which comes through the Anderson County Transportation Committee, and others.

Anderson County Council members Wilson, Tom Allen, Tommy Dunn and Frances Crowder attended.

Also attending were Rep. Gambrell, Rep. Brian White, Senator Billy O’Dell and Sen. Kevin Bryant.