Berkeley residents won't see tax hike
MONCKS CORNER -- Berkeley County residents won't see any tax increases under the new budget approved Monday.
The only fee increase is a higher charge to drop off tires at the county landfill.
But the county will close the Goose Creek auditor's and treasurer's offices to cut costs.
The $54.8 million operating budget is up 2 percent from last year. It includes no layoffs, furloughs or raises for county workers.
Councilman Tim Callanan objected to combining the county budget with the water and sanitation department's budget in a single ordinance. It's the first time council has not had two separate ordinances. Combining them could make it easier to divert the water and sewer department's fund balance to county projects, instead of using the money to pay off debt and lower customers' water bills, Callanan said.
"I just think we're going down a dangerous path where ... the county could get its hands on that $22 million fund balance," Callanan said.
Supervisor Dan Davis sharply disagreed.
"I want to take issue with the suggestion that that's what we're trying to do," Davis said. "There is no purpose served by combining them other than making it simpler."
A $2.8 million capital improvement fund would be paid for with 29 percent of the county's penny sales-tax money rebate. Callanan said the county should be giving the money back to taxpayers.
He pointed out that the county projects a $631,000 surplus this year. He asked council to pass a resolution to give any surplus back to the taxpayers. The motion failed, with Dan Davis casting the deciding vote against it.
The budget gives 9th Solicitor Scarlett Wilson extra money to keep two attorneys who are losing state and federal funding.
It also gives the Sheriff's Office two more correctional officers for the jail expansion, bringing the total of new deputies for the jail to a dozen.
But 9th Circuit Public Defender Ashley Pennington did not get all the money he requested to make up for losing state and federal money that supports two attorneys in the Berkeley County office. He only got enough to make up for the cuts to one of the attorneys. Council cut Pennington's request to help pay for the two extra deputies at the jail.
Councilman Dennis Fish unsuccessfully tried to get council to delay the budget for a month and hold a workshop to analyze it in more detail.
Council approved the new budget by a 5-4 vote, with Dan Davis casting the deciding vote.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.