Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Dorchester County Council gave first reading to its fiscal year 2014-2015 budget May 5.
The FY 15 budget includes $44.2 million in general fund expenses, $3.8 million in capital improvement fund expenses and $3.3 million in debt service expenses.
The proposed budget comes hand in hand with a recommendation from the state Senate Finance Committee to decrease the amount of money provided to counties via the Local Government Fund.
According to state law, 4.5 percent of the state general fund revenue of the previous year should be paid to local governments. For several years the legislature has voted to suspend the statute, decreasing the amount of money provided to counties and municipalities.
In the most recent Senate Finance recommendation, the committee is proposing to decrease the Local Government Fund even more; Dorchester County would receive a $389,252 cut from last year’s funds.
The county is already being underfunded by $1.8 million. If the recommendation is approved, Dorchester County will be operating on a $2.1 million deficit of state provided funds.
Since the first suspension of the Local Government Fund, the county has missed out on more than $7 million.
“This is starting to matter, this is starting to hurt,” said Council Chairman Bill Hearn.
Councilman Larry Hargett was quick to remind the council the Senate Finance recommendation also included a pay raise for the legislature.
The FY 15 budget was given first reading by title only; in the coming weeks the county will host several budget planning workshops and public hearings to review the proposed budget and make changes. Council is scheduled to give final reading to the budget at the June 16 council meeting in St. George.