County budget offers no funding for paving

By Stan Welch
As budget season continues, the county’s proposed finances took center stage at Tuesday night’s County Council meeting.
Finance committee members Councilwoman Cindy Wilson (D7) and Councilman Ray Graham (D3) both had reserved spots on the agenda to address their concerns about the budget. Their committee met this week in advance of the full council meeting, and reviewed certain parts of the proposed budget.
Both came away with similar concerns. Perhaps the most glaring hole in the proposed budget is the fact that no funding has been allocated for the paving of roads at this time.

Wilson offered several sources for funds, including four hundred thousand dollars proposed as an increase in the animal shelter’s budget, up from last year’s $1.3 million.
She also challenged the need for automatic cost of living increases for county employees and referred to redundancy in some personnel in the sheriff’s office. She also stated her opinion that, in light of the school districts receiving from seventy to seventy five per cent of the ad valorem taxes collected in the county each year, that they should pay the costs of the eleven additional school resource officers they are requesting. Last year’s tragic school shooting in Townville spurred the increased demand for officers.
Councilman Graham expressed his intention to hire new personnel only when absolutely necessary, and expressed every fiscal conservative’s dream. “We need to run as lean and mean as possible, but we also have to continue to provide services to our constituents.
He too addressed the lack of paving funds, saying that a portion of the revenues produced by the recently passed gas tax increase must be allocated to the counties. “We need seven to eight million dollars a year in our budget just to keep up with our roads. We certainly aren’t going to get anywhere near that from the tax increase.” He also pointed out that a ten dollar per vehicle car tax would raise an additional two million dollars a year, but conceded that the public simply won’t support that.
He, like Wilson, suggested simply not funding the proposed $220,000 for vector control, or mosquito spraying, citing the fact that, technically, SCDHEC has that responsibility. He would allocate those funds to paving.
Council Chairman Tommy Dunn made it clear that the idea of simply ignoring the vector control issue won’t work, in his opinion. “If you think that DHEC is just going to take care of that on  their own, you are mistaken. I’m not saying we have to have that whole amount in place, but we have to have something, because DHEC isn’t going to do it for us.”
He also estimated that the county should receive approximately two million dollars from the state to be used for paving. He joked with Graham, saying, “I’m not sure that seven or eight million dollar figure is the magic number for paving, but it sure as heck isn’t two million, either. So we have some work to do there for sure.”
He mentioned that the budget needs to take some action to “do something for the employees. Anderson County is growing and sometimes you have to add people. We’re talking about five new employees in the  sheriff’s office. Also, we have to be more competitive in our pay scales. We are paying CDL truck drivers eleven dollars an hour, while the private sector is paying a third more than that.”
He added that employee pay isn’t the only area that needs attention. “We own too much property. We have capital needs – new equipment, maintenance and repair on properties we do own. There are several cans we have been kicking down the road for the last several years.”
He suggested that the savings suggested by members of council be put towards reducing the proposed 2.9 mill increase instead of other uses. Councilman Tom Allen (D4) agreed with that.
Councilman Ken Waters (D6) pointed out that when he first joined the Council, unemployment in the county was at thirteen per cent. “It is three point eight per cent now, and the number of residential building permits is on schedule to double this year from last year. Growth brings in additional revenues, but it also brings more demand for services. We still have work to do, but I am pleased with the budget work we have done in recent years, and with the economic development efforts.”
A budget workshop is scheduled for Monday (May 22) to continue working on the budget.