Originally created 05/28/98

Council debates cutbacks



AIKEN -- The Aiken County Council seems reluctant to make the budget cuts required to balance the $47.6 million county budget, District 1 Councilwoman Kathy Rawls said Wednesday.

The county government likely will have to eliminate some positions, and Ms. Rawls knew that when she spearheaded the charge to remove a fee and a tax increase from the proposed budget, she said the day after the council's first work session devoted to the budget.

"We've got to take a hard line and do some cutting," she said. "I feel a responsibility to be frugal with tax money, and any tax increase is unacceptable."

Council members spent most of Tuesday's two-hour work session asking questions about the budget and proposing to cut a number of relatively small accounts, but made no decisions. The proposed budget is short $1.7 million in revenue because the council deleted a 5 mill tax increase to pay for higher solid waste fees and a $5 road maintenance fee increase.

District 5 Councilman Jim Baggott offered no suggestions during the meeting because he wanted to see what the other council members had in mind, he said Wednesday. None of the cuts proposed Tuesday even approached filling the shortfall, including the suggestion by Phil Napier, his Republican primary opponent, to trim the council's own budget, he said.

"We have a monstrous imbalance right now, and we're not gonna solve it with odds and ends here," Mr. Baggott said.

Two candidates running for the Aiken County Council said the council knew it would have to pay more in solid waste fees this year and could've done something about it before now.

"You've gotta deal with garbage. There's no way around it," said James Bland, who is running against Councilwoman Susan Giddings in District 2.

Gregg Gregory, who is running for the same office, agreed, saying taxes shouldn't be raised to pay for it. Mrs. Giddings did not immediately return telephone calls left for her at her residence.

The council will take a second crack at the budget for fiscal 1999 Tuesday after its regular meeting. The council has until June 30 to pass the budget.