As was the case last year, the Fairfield County Council held their budget public hearing to allow residents to comment on the upcoming budget, and no one came forth to do so.
Monday evening, the Council moved forward with the 2012-13 budget process, passing the ordinance on the second of three scheduled readings to establish operating and capital budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1 at their regularly scheduled meeting. At the conclusion of that meeting, the Council held a budget work session to discuss the County Administrator’s budget recommendations. A budget summary can be accessed at www.fairfieldsc.com/_fileUploads/Budget%20Worksheet%20Report%20FY%202013.pdf.
The budget summary explains any County department’s budget increase of five percent or more. Many increases, such as for the Sheriff”s Office, Veteran’s Affairs office, Road Maintenance and Building Maintenance Departments and Solid Waste Collections Department, are due to increased fuel costs. In total, County Administrator Phil Hinely suggested a General Fund budget of $24,507,604, an increase of $424,591 or 1.76 percent higher that the 2011-2012 budget.
Hinely’s Capital budget includes an increase to the General Operating Fund for the Fire Department, partially in the anticipation of hiring a training officer.
County Fire Marshall Tony Hill was in attendance at the budget work session.
“I want to thank you for the new position at our office,” Hill said to the Council. “That person will help us upgrade safety and equipment and recruit new volunteers. The average age of our volunteers is 44 years old. I will be looking for someone who is an instructor at the Fire Academy.”
Hill also brought up the topic of moving the Jenkinsville Volunteer Fire Station to property on Highway 215 near the baseball field.
“We hope to put EMS, fire, Sheriff and a community center there,” Hill said. “We should be able to put it on the ground in two years. I want to relocate the fire station in Ridgeway. That will probably be in five years.”
“Probably the next station after that will need to go south on Highway 215, closer to the Richland County line,” said Council Chairman David Ferguson.
“But you need to look at where the future growth is going to go,” Council member Kamau Marcharia said.
“But if you look at Blair and Feasterville, they have pretty good coverage,” Ferguson said.
The total of the County’s draft budget is $37,452,513, which is $526,786, or 1.43 percent, higher that last year.
“The whole budget is incrementally edging ahead in each department’s projects,” said Hinely. “We are inching along and doing all of the things we need to.”
The County Council also directed Hinely to continue giving the County employees 11 paid holidays a year, after he suggested paying employees for 10 days to save money at the last Council meeting.
“We had some mixed emotions about changing that policy to 10 days off,” David Ferguson said. “Eighty-three percent of the state’s counties give the extra day off at Christmas. We should leave the policy the way it is now.”
“I always thought, as an employee myself, that it was a pretty good benefit,” Hinely said. “But if other counties do it…Places are changing. They are not giving a cost of living raise. I am someone who looks out for our employees.”
Hinely told the Council that the County will give a cost of living raise in his budget proposal.
“The big money in this budget is a two percent raise. It will be given to the employees in full in the first full pay period in July.”
The County Council is having their next budget work session inside the former HON building on Highway 321 Business N. in Winnsboro on Monday, April 30 at 6 p.m. The County now uses the facility for its EMS services. The public is invited to attend.