GEORGETOWN — To pay for improvements suggested by the Watershed Master Plan, Georgetown County will allocate $2 million in its 2021-22 budget, but not necessarily adjust its separate stormwater fund accordingly.
This is not due to a lack of care for or ignorance to the copious flooding issues that exist in the county, but rather due to the amount of projects that can be done in a year, said County Finance Director Karis Langston.
"So in one year, (the stormwater department) will say 'We have eight projects that we are going to undertake,' and we'll budget for those eight projects. Well those eight projects might take two years to complete, and so the next year we will budget that much because we know they can't take on any more projects than what they've already got going on," Langston said.
"It looks like we've cut their budget but really ... that money rolls from one year to the next."
The county's total proposed 2021-22 budget is $89,757,000, about $2.1 million more than the current budget. This amount, though, is subject to change up until the proposed budget's final reading June 22.
The Watershed Master Plan will show how drainage impacts the Waccamaw Neck, specifically, and recommend improvements to infrastructure and policies to mitigate those impacts. It is expected to be completed by the end of the calendar year, Langston said.
The proposed budget also projects the following fee additions:
- Cremation Permit Fee of $25 per occurrence
- Autopsy Report Fee of $100 per report, though one copy will be provided to legal next of kin at no charge
- Flood Zone Review Fee of $75 on all building permits issued for property located within a flood zone
Other additions to the proposed budget include new staff positions and raising the minimum wage for part-time employees, Langston said.
The new positions are in the facility services department, the county airport and probate court.
Raising the minimum wage for part-time positions, such as in libraries and recycling centers, to $8.50 an hour is something Langston said the county has been working toward for a few years.
"We couldn't do it all at once, it was a progression," Langston said.
In January, the county experienced a system hack which took down most of the county’s electronic systems, including all emails. An investigation into the hack is still ongoing, including suspects, a motive and whether or not personal information was compromised.
No additional money will be added to the proposed budget to ensure cybersecurity among the county database, Langston said. Cyber improvements were amended into the current budget, and the county has since been able to shift management systems.
In March, county council approved $140,000 in budget amendments to upgrade its security system following the breach.
Langston and county council will discuss the proposed budget in more detail at the May 25 council meeting. A final reading of the budget will take place at the June 22 council meeting, and prior to that, the full budget will be available online and in county libraries for anyone to see.