County’s budget plans include 1% pay raises
By Samantha Lyles
Darlington County Council held its regular monthly meeting June 15 and passed second reading for new annual budgets totaling nearly $40 million.
As of this meeting all proposed budgets for fiscal year 2020/21 total $39,940,496, with individual fund appropriations as follows: Accommodations Tax Fund — $70,000; Airport Fund — $1,264,453; Emergency Services Fund — $ 4,890,730; Emergency Telephone Fund — $626,254; Environmental Services Fund — $ 2,833,500; Fire District Fund — $2,492,072; General Fund — $23,923,718; Hartsville Fire Protection District –$491,958; Hospitality Tax Fund — $35,000; Library Fund — $1,531,611; Road Maintenance Fund — $1,781,200.
As presented, the budgets include a 1 percent raise for all county employees.
Council member Albert Davis III (District 6, Hartsville) asked county administrator Charles Stewart if there was any way to bump that raise up to 2 percent or better.
Stewart replied that each 1 percent raise increment incurs annual costs of about $195,000, so higher raises would inflict significant budget cuts on county departments and programs.
Also, Stewart advised fiscal caution since the county still doesn’t know how greatly COVID-19 will impact revenues in the coming months.
The public hearing and second reading for the new budgets passed without objection. Final reading for the budgets is scheduled for June 29, and they will go into effect on July 1.
Council also passed second reading for the annual agreement to use Rubicon as the county’s provider for alcohol and drug abuse programs.
The purchase of two Peterbilt dump trucks and two CAT motorgraders for the Roads and Bridges Department at a cost of $289,771 and $363,574, respectively, received unanimous approval.
In response to an inquiry by Councilman David Coker (District 8, Hartsville), Stewart said the money for these purchases comes from money on hand within the Roads and Bridges department, namely revenues from the $30 annual fee charged on county vehicle registrations.
Ordinance 20-01, the Updated Comprehensive Plan for Darlington County, was carried over.
First reading (title only, no vote) was held for Ordinance No. 20-04, authorizing a special source revenue credit agreement between the county and Sonoco Products Co. The 10-year agreement would defray Sonoco’s county tax burden for non-specified site improvements by instead collecting payments calculated at a 6 percent assessment and a fixed millage rate equal to 302.3 mills.
Council also approved Resolution No. 713, amending the FILOT (Fee In Lieu of Tax) agreement between the county and Polyquest Inc. by adding DAK Americas LLC as a “sponsor affiliate,” meaning DAK’s investments are eligible for the same FILOT and special source revenue credits extended to Polyquest, beginning with property tax year 2020 for assets acquired in 2019.
In his administrative update, Stewart confirmed that access to the Darlington County Courthouse will remain restricted for the time being at the request of Clerk of Court Scott Suggs, citing concerns over spiking COVID-19 case numbers.
“South Carolina is having its largest jump ever, so it’s prudent to continue to do business the way we’re doing it,” Stewart said.
At present, county staff are meeting citizens and customers in the courthouse lobby to assist with their needs, or escorting them upstairs to offices when necessary. Stewart advised anyone with business at the courthouse to call ahead for an appointment so transactions will flow smoothly. Links with phone numbers to courthouse offices can be found on the county’s website at www.darcosc.com under the “Modified Operational Plan” link at the top of the page.
Darlington County Council’s next meeting is scheduled for June 29 at 6 p.m. at the Courthouse Annex / EMS Building, 1625 Harry Byrd Hwy in Darlington. This meeting will be live streamed to the public via Facebook @DarlingtonCountyCouncilLive.