Even though inflation is creating challenges for Aiken County, there are no property tax or fee increases in its financial plan for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
County Council unanimously approved Tuesday the third and final practicing of an ordinance that established the budget.
Included in the financial plan is a 5% pay raise for county employees.
Eight of County Council’s nine members were present at the meeting at the Aiken County Government Center and one (Camille Furgiuele) participated via telephone.
“I think the main theme of this year’s budget is that we are running harder to stand still,” Bunker said. “In the end, I think only four additional personnel were added to our workforce. Our focus was really on maintaining the existing staff – and that included the 5% increase (in pay) – and trying to cover the increases for retirement, health care and even things such as fuel costs.
“Basically, this budget overall was just trying to keep the train on the track, you might say," he added.
Revenues and expenditures for the General Fund for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which begins July 1, are both $80,363,143, according to figures provided by County Assistant Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Lynn Strom.
The General Fund is the source of money for the county’s day-to-day expenses.
For the other funds combined, both the revenues and expenditures are $142,248,722.
The total for both revenues and expenditures for all funds is $222,611,865.
By law, the county must have a balanced budget.
Bunker described the financial plan as “very tight” because, he said, “there were very few opportunities that we found to increase revenues.”
It also was difficult to identify “obvious candidates for cutting,” Bunker said.
County Administrator Clay Killian and his staff’s recommendations for revenues and expenditures were $79,964,781 for the General Fund, $141,530,607 for the other funds combined and a $221,495,388 total for all funds.
“I can’t say enough about how hard council and staff worked on the budget,” Killian said. “It was a difficult year because of inflation, particularly involving gas prices, and we also were trying to take care of our employees who are struggling just like everybody else. I’m very appreciative of council because of what they did for our employees, and I’m excited they could do that. But it’s a tight budget, and we’ll have to work hard to keep it where it is.”
Before the final vote on the budget ordinance, County Council passed six amendments. The votes on all but one were unanimous.
Included in one of the amendments was funding for a new child pornography investigator position in the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.
The cost for salary, benefits and miscellaneous supplies was $91,023.
Sheriff Michael Hunt told County Council in May that the investigator was needed because child pornography cases had increased “dramatically” in the county this year.
In 2021, there were 75 child pornography cases in the county, wrote Capt. Eric Abdullah of the Sheriff’s Office in a June 16 email.
This year, as of May 10, there had been 60.
“We currently have one primary investigator that specializes in child pornography investigations,” Abdullah wrote. “Our other juvenile investigators assist with (child pornography) investigations as well.”
Also Tuesday, County Council unanimously approved a resolution that authorizes Bunker to execute an agreement with the Thomas & Hutton engineering company in Columbia to study and develop conceptual plans to expand potable water service along the South Carolina Highway 39 corridor in northern Aiken County.