Dorchester County to cut spending
SUMMERVILLE -- Local revenue has begun to pick up, but Dorchester County still needs to cut more than $1 million in expenses to balance the budget next year.
The state still is shorting funds to the county for mandated services.
That's the message Administrator Jason Ward gave County Council at its first 2012-2013 budget retreat session Thursday.
To keep from raising property taxes or fees this year, council plans to make more than $700,000 worth of cuts to the operating budget, freeze hiring and put off some building projects in what has become a familiar a pattern over the past few years.
Revenues for operating and building budgets, including state funds are predicted to be $43 million, about $2 million less than in 2011-2012, when council members repeatedly cut the proposed budget before passing it.
"We're going to cut. We have to cut," said Chairman Larry Hargett. "We're getting hit real hard by the state. But we're not going to raise taxes, I'm going to tell you that."
The good news, more or less, is that officials aren't likely to increase property taxes -- yet -- to pay for a planned $18 million jail.
The jail is held up while the county seeks a waiver of the property's covenants and restrictions. There's enough money to pay for some preparation work, so council doesn't expect to have to increase property taxes for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Hargett said.
In a year with three council seats up for election, county leaders have been taking some heat over the tax expense of the jail, but have said the project was put off for years while the existing jail in St. George -- obsolete, overcrowded and not up to code -- became more and more of a liability.
The fiscal year begins in July.