PICKENS COUNTY—A “balanced” budget presented to Pickens County Council does not include a tax increase according to County Administrator Chappell Hurst.
Hurst and county officials say they have taken pride in the fact citizens have not seen a tax hike over the past several years, but this year may have been a little more difficult.
“The budget that I presented to council did not include a tax increase. It was a balanced budget,” Hurst said. “The council will have a work session on May 20 and they will go through the budget again and probably make some changes. As far as a tax increase, at this point, I don’t see that happening.”
Hurst and the county have had to fight through state cuts, which have impacted some aspects of the budget.
“We’ve eliminated some areas. We’ve made cuts in some departments that are under me and under county council,” Hurst said. “We continue to decrease the number of jobs in the public works area. We’ve monitored costs and we’re looking at energy saving methods.”
As of its second reading, Hurst said the budget resembles the one from the previous fiscal year.
“Basically the budget is the same as it was last year with some minor changes,” Hurst said. “We’ve added increases for health insurance and a one-time three percent payment to employees. This won’t be a permanent raise, but we’re doing it because, essentially, we can’t afford to give them a permanent raise, but at least they will get some money.”
Although much of the budget remains the same, a few increases were needed according to Hurst.
“We’ve also had some inflationary costs for things like fuel, electricity and things of that nature,” Hurst said. “We’ve got some capital needs that we’re trying to meet like replacing the roof on the court house, replacing some infrastructure in the detention center and those types of things.”
Some projects will begin to take shape within the next year, but very few new projects are on the horizon.
“Council has already approved building three new fire departments in the Pickens Fire District, and one new fire department in the Liberty Fire District,” Hurst said. “We’ve got other projects going on like the erection of an outdoor concert facility at Hagood Mill that will host about 350 people. Those things were already factored in the last budget, but they’ll actually be complete in the coming year.”
Hurst said the county has seen a drastic drop in revenue this year. Much of it is due to state cuts, he said.
“With the economy the way it is, we haven’t seen very much growth within our revenue this year,” Hurst said. “This is the smallest growth we’ve had in 30+ years. That’s because there’s a limited amount of building going on and property values are in a declining state.”
The Administrator said the county is doing all it can to save money, but eventually, something will have to be done if this path continues.
“We’ve been doing some cost-saving things over the past several years that are now paying dividends,” Hurst said. “But, there comes a point where you can only cut so much. From that point, you’re going to have to impact services.”