Post Tagged with: "Horry County Budget"

Bottleneck Hampers Horry County Budget Process

April 12, 2018 8:00 AM
Bottleneck Hampers Horry County Budget Process

There appears to be a bottleneck at the top of the Horry County budget process that may not be serving the citizens in the best possible fashion.

Early every calendar year, the various county departments submit budget proposals for their respective departments to senior county staff.

Senior staff then prepares a draft budget that becomes the document discussed at county council’s spring budget retreat and traditionally gets first reading at that time.

After the basic document is prepared, the various department heads meet with the committee that oversees policy for that department and attempt to make a case for the budget they prepared early in the year.

But, the working budget document has already been prepared by senior staff before those meetings and senior staff owns and jealously guards that document. Getting changes into it, other than those council itself may dictate, is difficult to say the least.

This process led to the lawsuit that Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones filed against Horry County Government and Administrator Chris Eldridge last fall.

Even though Jones was elected in November 2016 and would take office at the beginning of the fiscal year which began July 1, 2017, she was not allowed to participate in last year’s budget process.

When Jones got into office, she determined there was a need for several more employees in her department. She went before the county’s Administration Committee late last summer requesting just one more employee to get her department through the year. That request denied leading Jones to file suit.

The county’s answer to Jones’ complaint in the lawsuit was to attack her personally and to claim she was mishandling her duties and department.

The lawsuit between Jones and the county is ongoing, but the county is now preparing for a new budget to begin July 1, 2018.

Jones appeared before the Administration Committee earlier this week. According to information presented at the meeting, county staff had budgeted a mere $20,000 additional in operating expenses for the Treasurer’s Office next year over the current year’s budget.

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Horry County’s Election Year Budget

April 2, 2018 5:09 AM
Horry County’s Election Year Budget

Horry County Council’s recent budget workshop provided an interesting view into budget making in an election year.

County employees will receive what is being called a “three percent across the board merit raise.” In a countywide election, the county’s employees can account for thousands of votes including their families and friends.

In addition, ways to fund additional raises for public safety personnel are being considered. Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has proposed an additional $1 per hour raise for all Level 1, 2 and 3 police officers, Sheriff’s deputies and detention officers, which, if approved, will bring their respective raise amount to nearly 10 percent across the board.

Lazarus also proposed an additional three percent across the board raise (six percent total) for firefighters and EMS personnel.

The proposed public safety raise percentages were billed as necessary for “retention” of personnel, but it is interesting this consideration only seems to come up every four years or so when the council chairman is up for re-election.

Even more interesting is the fact that this increase in the public safety budget will not add any additional personnel despite the growing population of the county, which causes an increased demand for services.

Council member Harold Worley proposed using some of the excess hospitality tax revenue that the county will begin experiencing next year, currently estimated at $40 million per year, for increasing the number of police and fire personnel. County council already passed an ordinance stipulating continued collection of full Hospitality Tax after Ride I bonds are paid off.

Lazarus, who wants to use that money for I-73 construction, was heard to utter “not going to happen” at Worley’s suggestion.

One only has to consider the nearly $12 million of excess Ride II tax collections that recently was used to purchase approximately 3,729 acres of swamp land under the guise of establishing a wetlands mitigation bank in the county. That purchase literally came out of nowhere with little explanation to full council before it was approved.

If council is unwilling to return those excess tax revenues to the citizens who paid them, it certainly seems those excesses would be better spent on items that benefit the largest number of citizens rather than on the wishes of a few at the top of county government. The voices of average citizens need to be heard.

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Primary Filing Opens But Do Campaigns Mean Anything?

March 19, 2018 3:11 AM
Primary Filing Opens But Do Campaigns Mean Anything?

Filing opened last Friday for candidates in the upcoming June 12, 2018 Republican and Democrat party primary elections. Filing for candidates will close at noon Friday March 30, 2018.

The biggest name filing for re-election on the first day was Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.

We will now see three months of campaigning, led by incumbents to convince the voters to continue their time in office.

But, have the incumbents really served the needs of the people or worked for other agendas?

Unfortunately “fake” is the political environment of today. Most politicians occupy a fake reality where they say one thing when campaigning, do another when in office and cry “fake news” and attempt to change the narrative when their duplicity is pointed out. It often works because voters do not have the time or desire to acquaint themselves with the issues and, instead, rely on sound bites for their information.

The few who try to stick to the facts and have a reasonable discussion of the issues are too often defeated because of their honesty.

Four years ago, Lazarus committed to the voters to “Oppose new taxes” on his Lazarusforchair.com website under issues.

This commitment quickly went by the wayside. After being re-elected, Lazarus became the biggest proponent on council for raising taxes with the largest tax increase in Horry County history resulting. Property taxes were raised 7.2 mills and the annual vehicle fee paid to the county was raised from $30 to $50 per vehicle.

To sell the tax increase it was billed as an increase for public safety. Voters bought into this narrative during budget discussions only to be fooled after the tax increase was approved. As councilman Harold Worley said at the time, “Not one penny of the tax increase will go toward putting one extra officer on the street. Response times will not go down nor will community policing increase because of the tax increase.”

Worley was correct in his assessment. What most voters didn’t know was the tax increase was the result of a huge outcry by county employees after County Administrator Chris Eldridge received a large pay increase from council between first and second reading of the budget. A large portion of the “public safety” tax increase went to a pay increase for all county employees, not to improve public safety.

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Horry County Council Wastes Excess Ride II Funds

November 10, 2015 4:30 AM
Horry County Council Wastes Excess Ride II Funds

Tonight, Horry County Council will consider second reading and public review of an ordinance to use leftover Ride II funds for public safety radios.

That’s correct. In 2006, county council asked voters to tax themselves an extra penny on purchases in order to build or improve roads in the county.

Now that funds are leftover, council is trying to make up for years of ill-considered decisions about radios for the public safety division.

There doesn’t seem to be one budget year that goes by without millions of dollars of requests for new radios and supporting equipment.

Next year, Motorola, the manufacturer the county has used for a number of years, will stop supporting the radio system currently used by the county, causing the latest funding crisis.

State law allows capital projects sales tax excess funds to go into the county’s general fund to be spent as council decides.

However, we live in a county that just raised the road maintenance tax by 67% a few months ago. This will add approximately $3 million dollars per year to road maintenance and dirt road paving.

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Coast RTA Funding in Jeopardy

March 29, 2015 5:00 AM
Coast RTA Funding in Jeopardy

Funding for Coast RTA was almost removed from the Horry County budget for next fiscal year during last week’s Horry County Council budget retreat.

A motion to remove funding from Coast RTA was made and seconded and was only stopped by the intervention of council chairman Mark Lazarus.

Lazarus convinced his fellow council members the most recent Coast RTA update on its funding agreement with Horry County should be heard by the Administration Committee before a vote to remove the agency funding is considered.

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Horry County Budget Workshop Next Week

November 7, 2014 7:00 AM
Horry County Budget Workshop Next Week

Horry County Council will begin deliberations for its FY 2016 Horry County budget next Friday at a workshop and specially called council meeting.

Now that elections are over and several new council members are poised to join the governing body in the new year, we will see just how “conservative” our heavily Republican contingent on council really is.

My guess is the cronyism that has justified what I consider wasteful council spending in certain areas will continue to manifest itself.

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Crunch Time on Horry County Budget – Updated

June 17, 2014 7:00 AM
Crunch Time on Horry County Budget – Updated

Third reading of the Fiscal Year 2014-15 Horry County budget could provide some interesting viewing at tonight’s meeting of Horry County Council.

Central to the discussions will be a new funding agreement with Coast RTA, which will tighten council control over the money it provides Coast RTA, but not nearly to the extent that was called “overreaching” by several council members earlier this month.

Also of concern to some council members is the “hidden tax increase” included in the millage rollup associated with last year’s reassessment of property values throughout the county.
Property values showed a net decline due to the housing bubble bust several years ago and a slight increase in millage was needed to balance next year’s county budget.

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Coast RTA Funding Agreement Far Exceeds Special Committee Recommendations

June 5, 2014 8:15 AM
Coast RTA Funding Agreement Far Exceeds Special Committee Recommendations

Horry County has apparently found a way to exert the influence it desires over Coast RTA decisions with a proposed funding agreement between the county and the bus agency.

After failing for the last two years to have its membership on the Coast RTA board increased, the county will now have the ability to virtually dictate decisions to the Coast RTA board if the new funding agreement is approved by both sides.

The funding agreement goes far beyond recommendations made by a Special Committee on Coast RTA appointed by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. The committee deliberated through four sessions before approving a report to Horry County Council that recommended continuing funding for the agency.

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The Ungraceful Horry County Budget

May 22, 2014 8:00 AM
The Ungraceful Horry County Budget

What appeared to be a shock to Horry County Council Tuesday night that county revenues will decline as a result of reassessment of property values should not have been.

A year ago we wrote that the county would experience a decrease in overall land value as a result of reassessment and council would have to raise taxes in order to keep tax revenue at the same levels as before reassessment.

Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge tried to lessen the shock by saying it’s not a huge amount of money that is being talked about.

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Coast RTA Funding from Horry County Intact

May 13, 2014 4:40 PM
Coast RTA Funding from Horry County Intact

After Tuesday’s Horry County Council budget workshop, Coast RTA was still on track to receive $1.055 million in grant funding for next fiscal year from Horry County.

Council member Marion Foxworth presented a synopsis of the findings of the Select Committee on Coast RTA, which council chairman Mark Lazarus appointed and Foxworth chaired.

Foxworth said the Select Committee voted unanimously and was adamant in recommending to continue the county’s commitment to public transportation and the taxpayers who pay for the grant.

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