Berkeley Council fails to pass budget

  • Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 12:07 a.m.

Berkeley County Council has to scramble this week if the county is to continue paying its bills and employees’ salaries.

“If we don’t have a resolution by Friday, we will not be able to expend any funds, including that of payroll, invoices, anything of that nature,” county Attorney Nicole Ewing said.

In a move that surprised council members, council failed Monday to pass third reading of the 2012-13 budget, meaning it will have to start over. The budget was set to take effect July 1.

A new budget requires three readings and a public hearing, so if the county is going to continue operating, council will have to pass an emergency resolution by Friday.

The surprise came when Councilman Steve Davis voted against the budget, along with Phillip Farley, Tim Callanan, Cathy Davis and Dennis Fish, making the vote 5-3. Steve Davis typically votes with Councilmen Bob Call, Jack Shurlknight and Caldwell Pinckney, which results in 4-4 ties on many issues. County Supervisor Dan Davis then casts the deciding vote.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Dan Davis said after the meeting. “He threw me a curve ball.”

Schurlknight, chairman of the Finance Committee, and Callanan also said they were surprised by the vote.

At issue is the county’s portion of funding for Trident Technical College’s new 90,000-square-foot nursing and science building, which broke ground Monday.

Trident Tech has asked Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston counties to fund the $30 million building, and Berkeley County has included payments in its last two budgets but did not include the money this year. Berkeley County’s total contribution toward the building is $7.5 million.

The first two readings of the budget passed with the 5-4 vote, with Farley, Callanan, Cathy Davis and Fish voting against it. Callanan said he was against the budget for several reasons, including the lack of money for Trident Tech.

On Monday, he proposed amending the budget to make a payment to Trident Tech from the county’s current fund balance. He said Trident Tech officials have said the county could pay the balance of its pledge in 15 years with no interest, about $441,000 per year.

“I recommend that ... next year we come up with a permanent solution so we can put this to rest once and for all,” he said. Callanan said he would also support reducing the budget elsewhere to come up with the money this year.

Callanan’s amendment failed 5-4, with the supervisor casting the deciding vote.

Steve Davis proposed increasing taxes to raise the money so that council could address the issue for the last time. That failed 6-2, with Steve Davis and Pinckney voting for it.

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