Dorchester County, like most counties and municipalities across the state, is looking at state funding cuts, which will slash its new budget by about $400,000.
In the first reading on Tuesday of the $103,880 budget for 2014-2015, council members said the continued reduced funding from the state was starting to hurt the bottom line.
The fiscal year 2015 budget includes $44.2 million in general fund expenses, $3.8 million in capital improvement fund expenses and $3.3 million in debt service expenses.
The budget was given first reading by title only and it was not immediately known where the shortfall would be made up. The county will host several budget planning workshops and public hearings in the coming weeks to review the proposed budget and make changes.
The proposed budget comes hand-in-hand with a recommendation from the S.C. Senate Finance Committee to decrease the amount of money provided to counties via the Local Government Fund.
According to state law, 4.5 percent of the state general fund revenue of the previous year should be paid to local governments. For several years, the Legislature has voted to suspend the statute, decreasing the amount of money provided to counties and municipalities.
In the most recent Senate Finance recommendation, the committee is proposing to decrease the Local Government Fund even more. Dorchester County would receive a $389,252 cut from last year's funds.
The county already is being underfunded by the state by $1.8 million. If the recommendation is approved, Dorchester County will be operating on a $2.1 million deficit from those funds.
Since the first suspension of the Local Government Fund, the county has missed out on more than $7 million.
"This is starting to matter; this is starting to hurt," said Council Chairman Bill Hearn.
Councilman Larry Hargett was quick to remind the council that the Senate Finance recommendation also included a pay raise for the Legislature.
Council is scheduled to give final reading to the budget at the June 16 council meeting in St. George.
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