The Dorchester County Council passed a 2014-2015 fiscal year budget Monday night that included cuts necessitated, in part, by a shortfall in state funding.
This year's budget, which is funded at the same millage level as the 2013-2014 budget, includes some $44.2 million in general fund expenses - a slight increase over the current budget.
The General Fund Budget saw several amendments proposed and passed, none of which changed either total expenditures or revenue.
The budget reflects a $123,000 reduction in Dorchester County's funding to the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, a business and governmental nonprofit networking group.
"I don't know if we're the first to do this; I have not heard one way or the other," Council Chair Bill Hearn said, alluding to similar decisions being considered by Berkeley and Charleston county.
The budget also reduces funding from the Medically Indigent Assistance Fund by $41,585.
The Capital Fund came in at more than $3.8 million.
Council also changed the language slightly regarding the Fire Fund for unincorporated areas to reflect a 15 mill levy for fire protection in both rural unincorporated Dorchester County and incorporated areas that currently do not have fire protection service in place yet.
Council did grant a slight millage increase for the County Library Budget. The increase, at .2 mills, will provide an additional $99,000. In addition, Council approved a $200,000 cash advance ahead of collections to preserve the library's cash flow.
Council did not approve an amendment that would have increased Dorchester School District 2 taxes by 6.3 mills.
For the seventh year in a row, the state legislature is decreasing funds to local governments through the Local Government Fund. Dorchester County's share remains the same as fiscal year 2013-2014 at $5.159 million, leaving the county funded at about 73 percent of what it should be according to state statute, county officials said.
That means a number of requests - about $4.4 million - simply could not be funded in this year's budget. These included more than $2.5 million in new position requests and $1.8 million in operating requests. Significant items not funded this year include two new dispatchers, four new deputies, two new 12-hour Medic shifts and a 1.9 percent salary increase for county employees.
Another $6.1 million in Capital Fund requests will also have to remain on hold.
"All of these requests come on the heels of another year of being underfunded by the state," Hearn said. "I think we've done the best we can given the situation - seven years of being underfunded is adding up."
Hearn did say that the legislature had originally planned to cut local funding by some $2.2 million, but revised that number to $1.83 million.
"We are grateful for and appreciative of that," Hearn said.
Council Vice Chair George Bailey said he believes the legislature understands the gravity of the situation local governments face and will be more responsive in the future.
"I think things are going to change," he said.
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