By Stan Welch
After more than an hour of debate and amendments to a budget that Mayor Peggy Paxton had called an ambush just a couple of weeks earlier, the West Pelzer Town Council gave final approval to a budget Monday night. A public hearing, which saw a handful of citizens on hand to express their concerns over the possible loss of one of the town’s full time police officers, preceded the meeting at which the budget was approved.
Mayor Paxton continued to defend the town’s financial performance, saying that the end of the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year saw the town in the black, while Councilman Jimmy Jeanes continued to voice his prediction that the town would go under without significant cuts.
Councilman Donnie Jeanes proposed leaving the vacant fourth fulltime police position open, substituting three parttime officers instead; a move that would allow the town to avoid paying any benefits, such as insurance, and retirement. According to the figures in the budget, that would save approximately forty two thousand dollars next year.
The proposed budget also defunded the parttime water and sewer department position. Jeanes argued that that work could be contracted out, a position Mayor Paxton strongly disagreed with.
Another position that had been proposed for reduction to a part time position was the court clerk position. It was restored to fulltime in the final budget. Jimmy Jeanes also proposed reducing all employees’ Christmas bonuses,leading Paxton to offer to cut hers completely. The entire Council followed suit. Councilman Blake Sanders proposed a two hundred dollars bonus for employees and offered to pay the difference personally. Town attorney Carey Murphy opined that such an offer might pose an ethical issue.
He suggested that the Council simply review the budget during the fall, and set the amounts at that time. He also suggested that the amended budget was needful of a separate first reading, since material changes had been made. But the Mayor and Council, seemingly tired of the budget fray, chose to give final approval instead.