No tax increase in 2011-2012 county budget

A budget that doesn’t raise taxes but still provides funds to help county employees cope with the rising cost of health insurance received final approval from Union County Council Tuesday evening.

Council voted 5-1 to approve second and final reading of the 2011-2012 budget ordinance which leaves the county tax millage at its current level despite an approximately $400,000 increase in expenditures. The increase includes $70,000 for what Supervisor Tommy Sinclair called “an insurance adjustment” designed to help full-time county employees pay for the increase in the cost of their share of the health insurance they receive through the county. Sinclair said the adjustment, which is just for this year, will give each full-time employee with health insurance $500. He said the adjustment will be reviewed by council at the end of the fiscal year and, based on the county’s financial condition, either renewed or discontinued.

Council member Joan Little cast the only no vote, saying she felt that when many are without jobs and health insurance, it is wrong to tax the public to pay for those who already have insurance.

The budget projects $11,919,562 in revenue and expenditures or $403,932 more than the $11,515,630 budgeted for the current fiscal year. The growth in revenue is due to a $250,000 increase in the tonnage fee the county receives from the Republic landfill in Cross Keys; the $90,000 a year the county is receiving from the fee-in-lieu-of taxes agreement with Sloan Construction Company for the company’s asphalt production facility on SC 18; and $60,000 in fines the county is receiving through increased drug convictions obtained made by the Union County Sheriff’s Office and littering convictions obtained by the Code Enforcement Officer.

In addition to the insurance adjustment, the increase in expenditures is due to funds being budgeted for roof repairs at the Union County Jail and the Union County Communications Department ($140,000); the purchase of a new culvert cleaner for the road department, a new cardboard baler and the setting up of the Carlisle Recycling Convenience Center ($120,000); the FCC-mandated narrow band conversion of county radios ($50,000); increases in the cost of employee insurance, workmen’s compensation and unemployment ($50,000); additional funding for the magistrate’s office to handle the increase in the number of drug cases ($30,000); additional funding for tires and other vehicle operating and maintenance costs ($11,000); and additional funds for equipment repairs ($10,000).

The increased expenditures were partially offset with approximately $35,000 in reduced operating expenses at the courthouse and in the public works department. The county will also use $200,000 in bond repayment/savings to pay for the one-time expenditures in the proposed budget including the purchase of the new culvert cleaner, cardboard baler and setting up the Carlisle Recycling Center.

By Charles Warner, Staff Reporter with The Union Daily Times