County passes $34 million budget

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Darlington County Council convened their regular monthly meeting Monday, June 6 and passed final reading for the 2016/17 fiscal year budgets.

The composite budget in Ordinance 16-14 contained a General Fund budget of $24.8 million, an Emergency Telephone Fund of $831,059, a County Library Fund of $1.3 million, an Environmental Services Fund of $3.2 million, a Fire District Fund of $1.9 million, a State Accommodations Tax Fund of $60,525, a Road Maintenance Fund of $1.6 million, and a Hartsville Fire Protection District Fund of $475,000.

The total for these budgets is $34,460,002.

One amendment was added prior to passage: Council member Bobby Kilgo proposed adding $9,000 to place a supplemental absentee voting box in Hartsville for the November general election. Le Flowers seconded this motion.

Hoyt Campbell, director of Darlington County Elections and Registrations, agreed with the need for this provision, explaining that residents who don’t live near the Darlington registration office don’t have a nearby option for absentee voting.

“I think it’s unjust that those people do not get the services that we have in Darlington,” said Campbell.

He added that absentee voting numbers vary widely in two of the county’s biggest precincts: of about 2,600 voters registered in Darlington #3, around 650 voted absentee, while less than 200 of the registered 2,450 in Hartsville #8 voted absentee.

Absentee voting numbers normally rise during a presidential election year. Campbell said that in 2012, over 6,500 voters chose to cast absentee ballots. He noted that these numbers have swelled dramatically since 1992, when just over 700 people voted absentee. Kilgo added that one reason for this increase is that any citizen over 65 can now vote absentee and cast their ballot early, avoiding long lines at polling stations on election day.

Campbell said additional poll workers would be needed for about three weeks to work the absentee voting station. County administrator Terence Arrington noted that the $9,000 would be taken out the new budget’s contingency line item.

When the amendment came up for a vote, it passed 7 to 1, with only Mozella “Pennie” Nicholson voting against.

Kilgo also requested $16,000 be added to the budget to fund video and audio recording of County Council meetings. This motion failed when it did not receive a second from any council member.

Also on the agenda, council passed second reading of Ordinance 16-16, authorizing a $3.6 million lease purchase agreement to buy new vehicles and equipment for county departments.

Council passed final reading of Ordinance 16-13, raising the Solid Waste Fee levied on annual property tax notices from $53 to $60, and adding a $35 fee on returned checks. Vice Chair Robbin Brock was the lone dissenting vote against this measure.

Resolution 667 passed unanimously, authorizing the formation of a commission to study and discuss the possible implementation of a Capital Project Sales Tax to fund construction of a new courthouse. This commission would be comprised of county citizens, and it is a necessary first step if the county does pursue funding the courthouse with a penny sales tax. Council will hold a special meeting June 21 to appoint members to this commission.

Council unanimously voted against renaming the eastern private portion of Lide Springs Road as Generations Way. In attendance were several residents of that private road, citizens who have repeatedly appealed to council for help with large potholes and flooding problems, nodded their heads in agreement with this vote.

Author: Duane Childers

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