County Council passes 2011-12 budget with tax increase

During a special meeting of the Bamberg County Council on Monday June 20th, members approved a $7.6 million budget for the fiscal year 2011-12. The budget includes a 2.8 mill increase. The $7,552,861 budget is about $116,000 less than last yearís spending, but does include a 2.8 mill increase. This would mean owners of homes valued at $100,000 will see an increase of about $11 in property taxes.

Chairman Clint Carter opposed the tax hike saying he is opposed to any tax increase. Expressing frustration with how the state is continually cutting local funds and passing the financial burden on to local citizens, he said, ďour citizens are having a tough time and I donít know how we are going to grow when we keep passing the buck on to our citizens. Councilman Clair Guess and other council members have expressed the same concern at previous meetings. Council members have repeatedly express concern that when the state makes cuts, itís left up to local government to make up the lost.

The extra $80,000 from the 2.8 mill increase is expected to mostly fund the position of a litter and animal control officer. The budget initially included $25,000 for the Mary Ann Morris Animal Shelter (MAMAS). However, after Councilman Chris Wilson questioned the feasibility of funding the shelter at $25,000 and not fund a position for an animal control officer when council had already put $25,000 in the budget for the officer last year. All of the council members agreed that an officer was needed, but did not know how council would fund the additional expenses that would come with the position, such as housing and transportation. Council ultimately voted to move the $25,000 to a contingency fund until meeting with MAMAS to discuss more specific contractual arrangements for the animal shelter.

The county also had to pick up this yearís stipend for the countyís election commission. The $10,500 expense is just one example of an expense that was handed down from the state to the county.

In other business, in reference to the proposed Tri-County Regional Health Care Park, council tabled the third and final reading of an ordinance authorizing the county to enter into an agreement with Barnwell and Allendale counties.

The purpose of the agreement is to determine how to divide revenue and expenses related to the site of the new hospital. The third reading is currently scheduled during the July 12 meeting.