AP NEWS

County Council to hear Killian’s 2019-2020 budget plan for county

May 7, 2019

Aiken County Council will hear County Administrator Clay Killian’s financial plan for the county for fiscal year 2019-2020 on Tuesday.

In addition, during its 7 p.m. meeting at the Aiken County Government Center, the panel of elected officials is scheduled to vote on the first reading of an ordinance to establish the budget for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Ordinances require three readings for final approval, and Killian’s plan is only a recommendation.

County Council can revise it.

In recent years, reimbursements from the State of South Carolina for the cleanup costs following 2014’s major ice storm have helped County Council balance the budget.

But that money won’t be available again for 2019-2020.

Killian said Monday that he and Assistant County Administrator Brian Sanders – along with County Finance Director Lynn Strom and “her team” – have been “working on this thing several months now, and it’s been very difficult.”

In the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget, County Council filled a $3.5-million gap with ice storm reimbursement funds.

That hole is even bigger for 2019-2020, said Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker, when factors such as the additional expense to support the state retirement system and “any additional expenses for health insurance” are taken into account.

By law, the budget must be balanced, and Killian said the 2019-2020 plan created by him and his staff does meet that requirement.

“I won’t tell you exactly how, but we got it (the gap) closed,” he said. “We had to remove a good bit of stuff from the requests (by county department heads and elected officials such as the sheriff and coroner).”

Bunker believes County Council’s task of finalizing the 2019-2020 budget won’t be an easy one to complete.

“The full responsibility for the budget lies not with the county administrator, but with Council, so I would certainly expect us to take a hard look at the budget and make changes, if necessary, to it,” Bunker said. “Council has never rubber-stamped the budget, and over the last few years, we’ve had to get into pretty intimate details on the spending plans during our budget work sessions.”

This time around, Bunker believes at least four work sessions will be necessary.

“In the first (scheduled for May 14), we will be looking at the General Fund revenues,” he said. “During the next two, we’ll be looking at the General Fund expenditures. And in the fourth, we will look at the other funds like the Capital Project Sales Tax and the Horse Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant fund. Typically, they make up half of the total budget. They aren’t directly part of the General Fund, but how you move people around and how you credit certain things can have an impact.”

As of Monday, Bunker said he hadn’t seen Killian’s budget plan in its entirety, “but I have some ideas in my head (about what to expect).”

He added that he believes County Council is “going to have a lot of decisions to make regarding what to do in terms of taxes and fees” and about “potential spending cuts.”

The budget, he concluded, “is definitely going to be very tight.”

Other items on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting include the following:

• The second readings of two ordinances that would provide an economic development incentive through an infrastructure credit agreement to Green Energy Biofuel LLC and Mobettah LLC.

• The third and final reading of an ordinance that would prohibit the disposal of industrial waste at landfills operated by the county.

• The third and final reading of an ordinance to grant a utility easement to the electric utility provider at Langley Pond Park near Warrenville for a project that involves the construction of a finish line tower for rowing competitions.

The Government Center is at 1930 University Parkway.