By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Members of the county’s Budget & Finance Committee gave their approval to the mayor’s proposed 2018-19 budget last week after three nights of hearings.

Among the highlights of the budget plan are raises for both county employees and those in the sheriff’s department, an increase in insurance contributions and two new school resource officers.

The budget does project tapping into the county’s general fund balance for an amount of $693,825, from a projected $3.58 million to $2.89 million.

Submitted photo
Carroll Carman

“We’re doing a lot with this budget,” Mayor Carroll Carman told the committee. “We’re holding the tax rates at $2.93 (General Services) and $1.08 (Urban Services District).

According to the budget, 1 cent will bring in $19,336 in property tax revenue, a $152 increase from initial estimates, which added roughly $45,000 to projected revenues.

“That was a blessing,” Carman said. “That extra money helps.”

Under the mayor’s plan, full-time county employees will see a $2,000 annual raise and part-timers will see a $1,000 increase. Those in the Sheriff’s Department will see raises based on a longevity scale, with deputies starting at $17 per hour and moving to $18 once trained. Deputies with over five years experience will see a $4 per hour raise, boosting their salaries by almost $9,000.

All county employees will see the county’s contribution to health insurance rise from $380 per month to $482, which would entirely cover the single PPO (Preferred Provider Option) for both Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to estimates.

Two school resource officers will be added at the middle and elementary schools under the budget plan. Carman and Director of Schools Clint Satterfield previously reached an arrangement under which the county and schools will split the cost of three SROs, contributing roughly $75,000 each per year.

The budget also moves impact fees for new construction from Education Debt Service into the General Fund. Carman noted that the wheel tax and the schools’ contribution to debt service make the county’s contribution virtually unnecessary and freed monies to be applied elsewhere. Impact fees are also planned to increase, which will come up before the County Commission at its June 25 meeting.

Increased pay for county commissioners is also included in the mayor’s budget under a plan previously voted upon by the Local Government Services Committee earlier this year.

“There’s a lot of things we’re trying to correct,” Carman told The Vidette.

While acknowledging the planned hit on fund balance, Carman pointed out that his original 2017-18 budget, presented last year, called for nearly $300,000 in deficit spending. Actual spending instead wound up with a nearly $300,000 surplus.

Under state law, counties must budget in the expectation of collecting 92 percent of property tax payments. Trousdale has traditionally collected closer to 98-99 percent, but that additional money cannot be incorporated into a budget proposal.

“Last year, this budget on paper was in the hole $525,000, but the real number was almost $800,000 more,” Carman said. “This year’s budget has the potential of being positive too.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.