Berkeley passes $70 million budget with flair
MONCKS CORNER — One councilman got up and left. Five council members voted by telephone.
Berkeley County Council adopted its 2012-2013 budget on Friday, in a special meeting that at times took on the flair of a sideshow, and after county attorney Nicole Ewing twice offered opinions about the legality of the proceedings.
The $70.4 million budget does not call for a property tax increase, Finance Director Kace Smith said.
So far. But the council’s Finance Committee plans to look at a tax among other options as an option to pay for a $7.5 million contribution to Trident Technical College — the budget item that touched off all the fireworks.
The approval Friday averted a financial showdown; under state law, budget must be approved by the start of the fiscal year, July 1, or emergency financing measures taken.
With five council members participating by telephone, Councilman Tim Callanan questioned whether the vote could be taken. Callanan was one of the five on the phone. Ewing assured council it was legal.
Councilman Steve Davis then motioned — by telephone — to reconsider the budget, after opposing it Monday. Davis said he voted against the budget Monday because he expected a financing alternative to be introduced to pay the county contribution for a new nursing school at the college.
Davis’ motion drew an objection from Councilman Dennis Fish, who also had opposed the budget. Fish said the law prohibited council from reconsidering the budget after it’s adopted.
Ewing pointed out that the budget had been rejected Monday, not adopted.
That didn’t satisfy Fish, who abruptly left his seat and walked out of the meeting, saying he would not be a party to an illegal action.
The new budget authorizes making the annual $441,000 payment to the college.
Councilman Jack Schurlknight said that the Finance Committee will consider options at its July meeting. He said potential sources include the fund balance or an increase in property taxes.
“It’s not good business to take (the payment) out of savings,” he said. The budget vote was 6-2. Council members Phillip Farley and Cathy Davis opposed — by telephone.
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