At press time, Williamsburg County's budget remained in limbo. Williamsburg County Council’s June 19, approval of the proposed budget at second reading reflected a deficit of $520,982.
At first reading, the budget deficit was $972,469 a difference of $451,487 or a 47 percent reduction. The budget is based upon legislators agreeing to $40 million in funds for allocation to local governments. Governments across the state are waiting for the SC Senate and the SC House of Representatives to come to an agreement on funding.
Since 2007, Williamsburg County has seen a steady decline in state allocated revenues. "Our lose of revenue since 2007 has been about $1.5 million and that took us back to the 1995-1996 funding levels. And that’s what we've been operating under for the past couple years," said Williamsburg County Supervisor Stanley Pasley. "That equates to close to half a million dollars."
The total budget at second reading is $27,240,498. At this time, there is no increase in general fund millage. However, the debt service millage reflects a 9.6 mills increase, which will serve to the debt for the new Williamsburg County Public Administration Building, Williamsburg County Sheriff's Office, Williamsburg County Detention Center, EOC-911 and renovations to the Williamsburg County Courthouse and the Alex Chatman Complex. In July 2010, council approved the debt millage increase when they established installment purchase revenue bonds that provided for the construction and renovations under the capital projects. Pasley said at that time the millage increase was deferred as it was assumed the economy would have taken an upturn. Pasley anticipates a balanced budget by third and final reading on June 27. By law, governments must have a balanced budget by July 1.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (May 24, 2012), for fiscal year 2013, the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012, 30 states have addressed or have projected shortfalls totaling $54 billion. For 2012, South Carolina faced an 11.5 percent shortfall.
In other business, county council will no longer amend their agenda during regularly scheduled meetings. The decision was ruled in the Court of Appeals but has been appealed to the Supreme Court. However, the South Carolina Associations of Counties advised county councils to refrain from the practice. If the Supreme Court upholds this decision, any action taken by council as a result of amending the agenda will be at risk of violation of the public notice provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
Third and final reading to provide for the issuance of a revenue bond in the amount of $9.5 million was axed in order to amend financing. According to Williamsburg County Attorney Billy Jenkinson the county has never had a problem with interim financing but they knew going into the project this would be a problem due to the size of the loan. "Too much credit for a bank to swallow given the current regulatory climate," said Jenkinson. The loan, which will provide for water projects, is the largest in the history of rural development in the state. However, USDA Rural Development, which has a policy in place to guard against this type of situation had already committed to long term financing.
The move will however force council to abandon the original ordinance, create a new one, conduct three readings, and a public hearing - all before the last week of July. The reason being that funding on the loan runs out on August 4. Therefore, council will hold meetings on July 9, and July 17, which is council's regular meeting and third and final reading of the budget, and July 27. The July 27, meeting is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m.