Originally created 06/25/02

Budget bypasses tax increase

AIKEN - A final, balanced budget with no millage increase was passed by the Aiken County Council on Monday.

In light of a higher than expected insurance increase, Administrator Clay Killian referred to the fancy footwork needed to accomplish the feat as a "shifting" of some funding to cover priorities.

Councilman Phil Napier was more blunt, describing it as "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Regardless, it was what Mr. Napier and other council members had pledged to deliver for fiscal year 2002-03.

The financial maneuvers were required after the county learned June 10 that it would have to absorb a 59 percent increase from its insurance carrier. The dramatic increase was attributed to the ripple effects of Sept. 11.

The final move needed to make its budget work was to borrow against a project that already was delayed.

Although the county started putting money aside last year for a new University of South Carolina Aiken convocation center, the state did not provide a hoped-for $6 million bond match during the legislative session.

Mr. Killian said that about a half-mill shift from the project will cover the county's budget shortfall until the convocation center gets its state funds.

Other amendments to the budget included:

  • Councilman Willar Hightower negotiated $20,000 for recreation projects in District 8, which he said includes traditionally underserved neighborhoods such as Nicholson Village. The money was shifted from a fund that had been intended to pay for county council building improvements.
  • Clerk of Court Liz Godard picked up two new clerk positions after demonstrating that state filing fee increases should bring in an estimated $55,000 more a year. The new fees go into effect July 1.
  • One amendment that didn't pass was a motion by Councilwoman Kathy Rawls to reduce by 10 percent the amount of "dual taxation" revenue shared with the municipalities for various services. The council informally agreed to study in the coming year the impact of any change to the dual-taxation structure.

    The vote to approve the budget was unanimous among those in attendance. Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie was the only member not present.

    Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.


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