County Council votes to proceed with TAN loan

During a special call meeting of the Bamberg County Council on Monday, January 31, the third and final reading was passed allowing County Council to borrow up to $600,000 to help the Bamberg County Hospital operate. Council voted on the first reading to secure a Tax Anticipation Note not to exceed $600,000 for the hospital during its January 10 meeting and gave second reading approval to the TAN resolution at a special meeting on January 12. County Council Chairman Clint Carter said he wanted the record to show that he was opposed to the motion. Councilman Chris Wilson came in after the vote.

During public comments, Bamberg residents Charles and Becky Swindell were persistent about getting a clearer explanation on how the loan was being acquired and how council was going to pay the money back. Conceding that providing a clear explanation about how the TAN Note works, Bamberg County administrator Rose Dobson-Elliot said borrowing the money “will not contribute to an increase in taxes. She said funds will be paid back from the current fiscal year funding that may include undesignated reserves or some other funding source. Dobson-Elliott said taxes coming in from the sale of the nursing home is also another option.

Expressing concern about the rate of taxes for Bamberg County residents, Mrs. Swindell provided council with a “fact sheet” from the South Carolina Policy Council that she said documents that Bamberg County is a high tax burden and the most expensive county to live in the state. “This survey takes more into account than just taxes to come up with accurate data,” she said. Mrs. Swindell said the S.C.P.C. takes other things into consideration such as fees, licenses and fines. Mrs. Swindell said since her council representative was not familiar with the information, she thought others would need to know about the problems that Bamberg County may run into when trying to recruit industry.

Carter said much of the excessive taxes came from school operations. Councilperson Alzena Robinson agreed with Carter saying, “our regular county taxes are not bad compared to other counties”. Robinson said when you put in school operation taxes that’s where you see the increase and “you haven’t seen nothing yet,” she added. Carter went on to say, “we don’t have any control over what the school districts do”.

Cliff Bauer was hired by the hospital board of directors to serve as interim CEO of the Bamberg County Hospital. He began on January 26. Bauer said the hospital is making financial progress. “While we do have a critical cash flow problems, things are still doable. It’s not as bad as had been previously described. We have taken steps in operation to reduce workforce and make other cuts. Bauer said the staff is taking small steps towards making financial gains. “We are not hitting any homeruns, but we are cutting the fat and not the bone and blood.” He said that there was a $335,000 increase in cash flow from December 2010 to January 2011 and those net gains excluded any funds that the county has provided for the hospital. Bauer said making progress like this gives them (the administrative staff) credibility with the board (hospital).

In other business

• The agenda was amended to allow a recess for council to enter in executive session with the hospital board finance committee to discuss a “legal and contractual matter”. After meeting jointly for about 45 minutes, Carter announced that no action was taken.

• A public hearing was held to inform the public of the proposed fiscal year application process for 2011-2012. This was done in accordance with section 5311 Rural Transportation application to be submitted to the South Carolina Department of Transportation in order for the County to continue offering transportation and being reimbursed through Medicaid and Medicare.