County hashes out budget details
As July is about to become August, Berkeley County Council continues to hash out the details of its 2013-2014 budget.
Members of county council remain divided about how Berkeley County will spend its money during the coming fiscal year, and where.
During council’s regular July council meeting two weeks ago, Finance Committee Chairman Tim Callanan asked for a motion to approve the 2013-2014 budget – bill no.13-11– for third reading, which he received from council member Ken Gunn. He called for a second and did not get it.
Callanan then moved to table the new budget pending changes.
The current budget expired on June 30. County council passed a continuing resolution to buy 30 days; that resolution expires July 31.
Council member Steve Davis expressed his frustration.
“I’m finding it a little disturbing that this is a process of county council to work together in discussion and debate to work out a budget, and I find I have to keep up with the local newspaper to learn what’s going on with the budget,” he said. “I’m also hearing a lot of ‘I’s’ here, a lot of ‘I this,’ and ‘I that,’ and I’m finding that a little disturbing as well.”
Callanan proposed that council meet on Thursday, July 25 to work out the final details of the FY 2013-2014 budget. “We could move it back to July 30, but that would be cutting it kind of close,” he said.
Callanan said there is money being allocated in the coming year’s budget that’s not being used. The Finance Committee Chairman wants to revert to actual expenditures rather than budgeted expenditures and offered finance department staff the opportunity to come up with ways to trim operating costs – within reason.
“We’re looking at reducing the operating expenditures to 2013 levels,” Callanan said. “What I don’t want to see is you coming back with these dire consequences scenarios where we can do this but we have to implement a rolling blackout at the local EMS offices, or we have to furlough employees. If you come back with a reasonable alternative I would love to sit down and discuss it.
“We have a million dollar difference between actual operating expenses and budgeted operating expenses. Yes, it’s a bare bones budget, but it is still 20 percent higher than the actual expenses from last year.”
Steve Davis said the Finance Committee Chairman is encroaching on dangerous ground.
“What we don’t want to do is to create a problem when trying to fix a problem,” he said. “We don’t want to bring Washington D.C. to Berkeley County where we create problems when we try to fix problems.”
“We’re not choosing to take the easy path. It’s not creating a problem when we’re actually doing our job,” Callanan said. “It is our job to look at the presented budget and look at it line by line to see where we can find some savings.”
The county supervisor objected, saying his staff had already done that during the budget preparation process in the spring. “The budget we submitted is zero based and every expense is justified,” said Supervisor Dan Davis.
Included in the 2013-2014 budget is reimbursement of some of the 29 percent tax relief money to the taxpayers and the re-opening of the Goose Creek satellite office. The Goose Creek office was closed in August 2011.
“Over the past three years we’ve had a budget presented to us where we did not have a lot of input,” said council member Dennis Fish. “When the supervisor’s budget comes to us and we approve it, it’s no longer the supervisor’s budget it becomes our budget. What we’re trying to do now is to generate the input to make this our budget where we can find the savings to reimburse some of the taxpayer relief money and re-open the Goose Creek office.”
The office at 303 N. Goose Creek Blvd. was opened in 2006 to offer services for the auditor and the treasurer. The permitting office was also housed there briefly. The county estimated it saved $56,500 by closing it in August 2011.
Fish and fellow council member Ken Gunn both are staunch supporters of re-opening the Goose Creek office.
Gunn included the satellite office’s resurrection as part of his campaign platform when he defeated Bob Call for the District 3 council seat in November 2012.
County auditor Janet Jurosko questioned the idea of reopening an office in Goose Creek.
“I wanted it to work when it first opened,” Jurosko said. “It’s just that it didn’t. All these people were getting upset because they were having to come to Moncks Corner anyway.”
Opening the Goose Creek office is estimated to cost $160,000 for equipment and employees.