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Budget Cuts Continue This year: Needs Meet Wants Head-On
A Column by the Editor
web posted February 21, 2011
COLUMN – February is almost over, and with the
exception of the local Mayors, no one is really talking about how
difficult a budget year our county is facing starting next month.
Frankly, it is in some way understandable, the funding numbers from the
state have yet to emerge. However, it doesn't take a Doctorate in
Economics to know we are going to get cut again, and hard. The School
District is also looking at falling millions short of their budget
needs as well. It's not going to be pretty.
As far as the County goes, there are some expectations raging between
10 to 15% in cuts just in the Aid to Subdivisions alone, otherwise
known as the Local Government Funds (LGF). Since 2008 the funding cuts
from the state now totals into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and
is close to funding levels in the early 1990's. Additional cuts this
year will have a major impact on funding county operations.
In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the county was forced to cut over $625,000 from
the county budget and was still forced to dip into reserves to balance
the budget. Last year those same reserves had to be tapped again to
tune of over $470,000 in a budget designed by
former Chairman Monroe
Kneece (D-Johnston), which included a 2% raise for employees and
funding for non-governmental organizations (NGO's).
This year, if the county passes an identical budget, and includes the
expenses added over the year, the county is going to start the budget
process at well over a half a million dollars in the hole. And that is
before figuring in the current expected 10 to 15% in reduced funds from
To make matters worse, the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office has been
disallowed in the past year from replacing any of its aging fleet of
patrol vehicles that exceeded their certifiable use as "emergency
response vehicles" last year, or the year before. Due to that neglect,
the need is even greater this fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the county has given away more money to NGO's in the past
two years than it would have taken to keep the fleet of patrol vehicles
up to date and operational. Last year
alone NGO's received over $60,000
in funding, $43,000 of that going to Piedmont Tech alone.
Rest assured, the same NGO's are already lobbying for their slice of
the pie made from your taxpayer dollars - and most could care
less what impact it has on county employees or the taxpayer. They just
want their free money. Piedmont Tech will be back grandstanding and
making their threats to close the Edgefield Campus once again if they
are not given what they want. Look for that to be around $90,000 this
coming fiscal year, if not more.
Actually, I look forward to seeing them try this during the coming
budget debate as the impact of the budget cuts are going to go beyond
cutting the county operation budget to the bone. You can cut a budget
to "the bone" only as long as there is "meat on the bone" to cut. If
you talk to most department heads at the county level, there is no more
meat to cut. The only thing left to trim would be benefits or jobs.
I want to see anyone explain how giving money to someone who produces
no income for the county is more deserving of funding over county
employees jobs. You know, those who work collecting the county
And while I am at touching the fatal "third rail" of local politics,
let's not leave county recreation out of the discussion. Recreation is
not a need or a required function of our county government. In fact, it
has been more of a used boat we bought. We keep pouring money into it
to give a minority of taxpayers something to occupy the time for their
children, and it has yet to produce a single dollar in positive
Dare we even breech where the revenues from the county owned concession
stand at Bettis Park goes? For years not so much as a receipt from
those running it and yet our county leaders just look away? We own it,
sure need to know who is making money, and how much, using our tax
Those supporters of local government (those needing the votes to get
re-elected) will argue that giving children something to do will keep
them off the streets and out of jail. A fallacious argument at best. I
haven't seen too many 7 to 14 year olds in the arrest records and yet
teenage crime (15 and up) is at a record level. In other words, how
well has that worked out in reality?
So far we have poured over $2 million into it, including hundreds of
thousands into the Northside Park which is not even used for county
It is time recreation be removed from the county tax rolls and put back
into the hands of the private sector, which ran it successfully for
decades. In addition, give the Northside Park back to its owners. We
built their own little recreational facility used only for church
functions and it's time to call it quits. Be happy and walk away with
the gotten gains you received through political vote buying. The total
cost savings from recreation and the Northside Park would be in excess
of $225,000 a year.
I have not, and never will be, a supporter of recreation being
protected as a millage rate on our tax bills when it should be a simple
line item at best just as every elected official's office is in the
I would much rather have a deputy on the road in a car suitable
and functional than I would making sure the soccer ball little Johnny
or Jane is kicking around is property inflated.
The reality is this budget year will be one in which the rubber will
meet the road like never before.
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