PICKENS COUNTY — Pickens County Council gave final approval to the fiscal year 2015-16 budget this week — and marked the 10th year of passing a budget with no tax increase.
Council had been able to keep no increase in service fees through the first two readings of the budget, but in the final reading on Monday there were small changes added as amendments to the original plan.
Councilman Neil Smith offered an amendment to create a more equitable distribution of fire service fees for vacant property, creating a sliding scale based on acreage that gives smaller landowners a lower rate than larger landowners creating a proportional charge.
Council also discussed creating three new positions and added them to the upcoming fiscal year’s budget.
The positions include one in the building codes department which would be funded by an increase in service fees should the position be filled; a possible full-time HVAC position based on outside expenditures versus in-house technical support; and also a possible Public Information Officer to handle press requests and publicity in a PR capacity.
The discussion of the PIO position remains within the committee of the whole.
One topic of discussion during the public input forum was the county’s lack of full funding for certain portions of services provided within Pickens County, the most prominent being part-time positions within the county elections commission.
While these are essential services, Smith addressed the audience with the reasoning behind the funding decisions, citing the state’s continued neglect of the Local Government Fund (LGF).
After confirming with Acting County Administrator Ralph Guarino the items were state mandates and intended to be funded by LGF revenue, Smith cited the state’s responsibility and the county’s limited ability to make up for the shortfall.
“We need to respond to the state delegation about these continuous transfers of responsibility from the state,” Smith said. “That’s our big issue. We have only so much revenue and without a tax increase we can’t continue to fund state mandates when they don’t distribute the revenue to the counties. And this is not just a problem in Pickens County, this is all across the state.”
Council also completed approval for a loan to Meals on Wheels, two amendments to existing ordinances to clear up language concerning the definition of junkyards, and the first reading of a joint venture between Pickens and Oconee counties for a new industrial park.