County Admin delivers ominous budget preview
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
The financial outlook for Darlington County is tight and bound to get tighter, according to county administrator Terence Arrington, who took a moment during County Council’s May 2 meeting to outline some challenges that await council during their upcoming 2016/17 budget deliberations.
Arrington said that with a stagnant fee structure, a minuscule increase in allowable millage for next year (0.12% of the CPI, totaling about $15,000), aging vehicle fleets and buildings, and a mounting pile of unfunded mandates from the state, Darlington County needs to seek out and implement new revenue sources sooner rather than later.
“My job is to present you guys with a balanced budget, but that’s becoming increasingly challenging with the way the revenue structure is set up and the fact that we’re not making the decisions we need to make to improve the existing infrastructure of Darlington County,” Arrington said.
Some upcoming expenses can be factored in cleanly, like next year’s $87,876 increase in employee health insurance costs, but others – like mandatory institutional changes required by the State of South Carolina – could bring many complications and unforeseen expenses.
“There are a lot of unfunded mandates, things that we need to do that haven’t been done,” said Arrington.
Chief among these pending mandates is hiring additional staff at the Darlington County Corrections Center to comply with federal PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) regulations. The DCC needs about eight more corrections officers to bring the facility into compliance, and despite several pleas over the past few years from (now former) DCCC head Maj. Mitch Stanley for additional funding, the jail is still not PREA compliant.
Arrington informed council that he has received several letters from Blake Stanley of the South Carolina Department of Corrections pertaining to this matter, and noted that the correspondence has “intensified” over the past few months.
“(Mr. Stanley) is saying that he has talked about this with previous administrators and it still has not been addressed,” said Arrington, adding that Stanley would likely return to address council on this matter in the near future.
Since the DCCC falls under the control of the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office, which is managed by an elected sheriff, Arrington reminded council that the county administrator’s office has no authority to deal with this issue and he was simply passing along the information.
County computer and network infrastructure is also due for an overhaul, according to a Safeguard Inspections report from the Department of Social Services. Arrington reminded council that county computers were recently crippled by a virus and the (now former) IT director Arthur Moore had to scramble to get county systems back online while dealing with a steady stream of work orders.
To deal with the IT issues, council agreed to contract with RussCo Network to handle network and hardware issues as they occur, paying on an hourly basis rather than hiring another in-house IT professional.
Darlington County Council’s first work session for the 2016/17 fiscal year budget is scheduled for May 11 from 9 am until 12 noon at the Pee Dee Regional Council of Governments, located at 2314 Pisgah Road in Florence.