In a nearly four-hour work session Thursday night, Union County Council reviewed and gave tentative approval to the budget which projects revenues and expenditures totaling $11,515,630. The bulk of the session was devoted to a line-by-line review of the proposed budget during which Supervisor Tommy Sinclair outlined increases in projected revenue that he said will help balance the budget during the new fiscal year. Sinclair said the county should receive an additional $50,000 in revenue from Timken Park through gate receipts and concession stand sales; another $50,000 in revenue from property taxes paid by Wal-Mart on its new super center; and an approximately $500,000 increase in fees generated by the landfill which will gain additional customers during the coming year.
The additional revenue is welcome as the county is facing a 10.5 percent increase in the cost of employee insurance and an 11.5 percent increase in law enforcement retirement benefits in fiscal 2010-2011. Earlier this month, the county was projecting revenues of $11.13 million and expenditures of just over $11 million.
The revenue allowed council to include a $150,000 contingency account in the budget to help cope with any additional cuts in state funding. Sinclair has repeatedly pointed out that the final shape of the budget will depend on whether or not the General Assembly makes any further cuts in state allocations to the county. He reiterated this Thursday night saying the county will not know this for sure until the new state budget is signed by Gov. Mark Sanford.
At Sinclair’s recommendation, council allocated an additional $20,000 to the Union County Development Board. Sinclair said the additional funds are needed by the board to promote economic development and help reduce unemployment in the county.
“We need jobs,” Sinclair said.
The budget also includes $100,000 for the county building inspection department which may undergo some changes in fiscal 2010-2011.
Some council members expressed concerns Thursday that the building inspector is having to spend a great deal of time answering calls about overgrown grass and the cost involved. Sinclair and other council members, however, pointed out that the building inspector enforces county codes including those related to overgrown property as well conducts building inspections.
To allow the inspector to spend more time on building inspection, Sinclair proposed the county assign a deputy with the Union County Sheriff’s Office to serve as code enforcement officer. Sinclair said the deputy would then handle code violations involving overgrown property, derelict buildings, etc. and allow the building inspector to focus on inspections of new construction and renovations.
Council agreed to include the funding and to revisit Sinclair’s proposal at a later date.
In other business, council voted to appoint four new members to the Union Hospital District Board of Trustees.
A total of 14 people applied for the four open seats currently held by chairman Tim Svedlund, Jeff Cannon,, Dr. Chris McWhorter and Dr. Robert Yannetti. Only six of the applicants — Brent Greer, Mike Cassels, Jeff Cannon, Bobbie Jean Lawson, Tim Woodall and Stan James — were nominated by the members of council for consideration Thursday.
Council voted unanimously to appoint Greer and Cannon to the board while James was elected with four votes. Lawson and Woodall each received three votes in the initial balloting forcing Sinclair to cast the tiebreaker in favor of Lawson.
Sinclair said this morning that he voted for Lawson because he felt women were underrepresented on the board. He said there is currently only one woman on the board even though most hospital employee are women. Given this, Sinclair said he felt more women should be on the board to better voice the concerns of the majority of the district’s employees.
The appointments follow a change in state law and county ordinance to change the makeup of the board to include seven non-physician at-large voting members and three ex-officio members from the medical community.
Council requested the state law be changed to correct a conflict-of-interest issue with physicians employed by the hospital district sitting on the board.
The previous law stated the hospital board had to have three physician members; however, those physicians cannot be employees of the hospital district. This disqualified McWhorter and Yannetti from applying for reappointment because they are district employees.