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County Council's priorities out of whack

A column by the Editor
web posted March 18, 2009
COLUMN – The budget process for Edgefield County is underway and is already proving to be a battle of the status quo supporters and those who want to see real change in how the county operates. As usual, the majority of the county council is looking at county employees to carry the brunt of budget cuts once again by forcing county employees, who probably won’t get a raise this year, to cough up $121,000 of their pay to help balance the budget. Last year the cuts came by reducing the measly 1% raise to only half of the year. Yet the same majority supports giving away half that amount in free money to those who do not work for the county. It must be nice to be politically connected.

To the “movers and shakers” who seem to have a stronghold on the majority of our county council, county employees, those who actually make this county run, are mere whipping boys and girls to see that the handouts continue even during the most difficult financial situation the county has faced in two decades - if not ever.

While those workers, many of which live at or near poverty level, are being forced to have $95 taken out of their checks each month (roughly a $1,200 a year pay cut), the majority of the county council can find it in their hearts to use those funds to give free money to the Tompkins’ Library, aka Edgefield County Civic League ($17,500), and Piedmont Tech ($42,908).

I want someone, anyone really, to explain to me how we can take money from a county employee that results in food being taken off the table to feed their children to support private interests that have absolutely nothing to do with the necessary function of our county government.

To put it bluntly, the county is basically saying to its employees, “We need to take $95 a month from you so we can put half of that money towards your insurance and the others half we are going to give away to people who did not earn it.”

At least County Council members Rodney Ashcraft and Genia Blackwell are holding their ground to fund county operations first and special interests last, but they are outnumbered by those who have held their seats for the past 20 years – Chairman Monroe Kneece, Vice-chairman Willie Bright, and the council’s resident village idiot Norman Dorn. All Democrats mind you.

I find that odd as Democrats always claim to be looking out for the “little guy” and it is the Republicans on the county council that are actually the ones trying to protect the “little guy” from their own local government.

Not to mention that the county council has no idea where the $17,500 they earmarked for the Tompkins Library will even come from. Maybe they can just increase the amount that will be deducted from the county employees pay to cover that cost. Hey, $100 is a nice round number, maybe they can just go with that.

Here’s an idea. Why not cut recreation back to $70,000, more than was ever promised by the county when the program began, and save $163,000. The county promised to fund seed money for three years to recreation to get it off the ground and then it was supposed to support itself. Ten years later we are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars we don’t have into an obviously failing program. It’s time recreation is cut free to either sink or swim.

Those who support the funding of the Tompkins Library would point to this and say it was a viable solution to support their funding. Personally I beg to differ. If instituted, the $163,000 should be used to offset the burden being placed on county workers ($121,000 for insurance) and provide an additional $20,000 to be designated to a years of service appropriate Christmas bonus schedule since no wage increase is going to be considered for county employees. This would leave a surplus of over $20,000 to fund other necessary county government functions that are being cut.

Needs based budgeting is what families do when their money is cut, why should our county act any differently? To the majority of our county council, at least at present, they would rather tell county employees to cut back to two meals a day rather than three so they can give cell phones and cable TV to others.

I am a very logical man and I cannot see the reasoning behind the current decisions of the of majority of council members, because it sure is not “logic” they used during the initial stages of the budget process.

Granted, this was just the first “work session” of the county council and nothing is final until the third reading. I just think it is time that county employees fill the county council chambers at every meeting to speak on their behalf just as those who receive handouts do. There are a lot more of you than there are of “them”. Maybe the county council should be forced to look you in the eye and tell every one of you that other people are more important than you are.

I have no problem with funding non-profits and other entities when times are good, but when times are bad and we take money from our employees to give it to others, we have a dilemma that no logical person can support.


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