County Gives Budget 2nd Reading

Laurens County Council last evening gave 2nd reading approval to the budget for fiscal year 2019-2020. Another budget work session was scheduled following the regular meeting. The County Fire Budget also received a 2nd reading approval.

County Administrator Jon Caime explained for WLBG that the budget had changed slightly from the first reading, when council added about $206,000 in additional spending. He indicated most of the budget this year is going to be easy, by design, due to the three-year plan introduced after his arrival. He noted the first year was very difficult due to a massive restructuring to achieve council’s goal of fixing the county’s finances.

Caime put measures in place to bring county employee pay more in line with that of surrounding counties. These were massive undertakings. He indicated last year built on the process but was also difficult because the county had not achieved all goals on the pay structure. The final part was to be addressed last night.

County Council last night was also to deal with underfunded Emergency Medical Services. The shortfall in covering EMS expense had already been outlined at previous council meetings. Caime said the EMS financial numbers indicated it could take a doubling of the tax charged for EMS to meet all expenses. Once this is resolved, Council is expected to tackle capital funding issues regarding equipment, vehicles and buildings and a future meeting of County Council.

In addition to requests from Laurens County EMS, also on the agenda for last night’s work session were requests from the Probate Judge, Disabilities and Special Needs, the Coroner’s Office, Special Appropriations, Emergency Communications, Management and Planning.

A public hearing of the new county budget, prior to the 3rd and final vote on the spending plan, is set for June 11th. June 25th is designated as a back-up date, should that be needed.

Laurens County Council also gave 2nd reading approval for an ordinance providing that 29% of the county’s Local Option Sales Tax revenues will be used to balance to General Fund budget for the next fiscal year. That leaves 71% of that revenue to reduce property taxes to be paid. 29% is the maximum that can be diverted to the general fund. Council Vice-Chair Joe Wood again was the “No” vote on that measure.