Originally created 05/23/01

Council works on funding

AIKEN - The Aiken County Council struggled Tuesday with how to manage a $32 million budget for next year without raising taxes.

While the revenue should be about the same as this year, the council wants to give employees pay raises and is considering creating several new positions.

But to pay for the new positions in various departments, they might have to cut six others, officials said.

Three of those six might be members of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office DUI Task Force. The task force was started three years ago with a grant that will run out in October.

Sheriff Howard Sellers said the task force is self-supporting and should continue.

Since the task force hit the streets, Aiken County has reduced traffic fatalities. The task force generated more than $120,000 last year, which offset its operating costs.

Council members were concerned about a proposal to take $13,000 from capital expenses to pay for personnel expenses.

"This is going to come back and haunt us because you know there are some things you just can't cut," said Councilwoman Kathy Rawls.

Interim County Administrator Joan Wilson proposed that a communications director who would install and repair county communication equipment be hired to eliminate a $150,000 yearly maintenance agreement to do the same work.

The position would require approximately $35,000 for start-up supplies such as a vehicle and computer. Some council members said the position might not be necessary.

"I don't think we need to add any more people," said Terry Bodiford, county finance director. "If you're going to do anything, try to keep the people that you've got. Revenues cannot keep up with the amount of people we are hiring. I just don't think we can continue adding people without a tax increase."

Aiken County has not had a tax increase in seven years, and council Chairman Ronnie Young said there will not be one next year.

"We'll make it," Mr. Young said. "We've got the right growth factors that we need. We'll make the county what it should be and keep going forward."

Personnel costs are expected to grow 4 percent under the proposed budget in addition to the 3 to 3.5 percent addition for raises for county employees.

To save money, the county could consolidate some positions, Mrs. Rawls said.

"We're not advocating cutting people's jobs, but we can do it through attrition because at any one point, we've got lots of vacancies," she said.

Reach Valerie Rowell at (803) 279-6895 or valmac007@hotmail.com.


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