Sumter County councilman bothered by funding comment

Baten wants full amount from local government fund

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 2/15/18

After hearing a comment from a local delegate, Sumter County Councilman Gene Baten is ready to start the annual battle to receive full funding from the state in the form of the local government fund.

The local government fund - appropriated …

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Sumter County councilman bothered by funding comment

Baten wants full amount from local government fund

Posted

After hearing a comment from a local delegate, Sumter County Councilman Gene Baten is ready to start the annual battle to receive full funding from the state in the form of the local government fund.

The local government fund - appropriated through the state House Ways and Means Committee - is used to finance the operations of state-mandated agencies in each of South Carolina's counties.

The funding is based on a formula that appropriates 4.5 percent of South Carolina's general revenue funds collected during the previous year. However, the funding has not been provided in full for about 10 years.

On Tuesday, Baten said a local delegate on the House Ways and Means Committee said Sumter County has not proven that it is not receiving enough funding. Though Baten did not name the local delegate that made the comment, State Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, is the only Sumter County delegate on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Without that funding, counties have to fund the state-mandated agencies through their general funds, which Baten said is keeping Sumter County from spending much-needed funds on residents.

Producing a budget every year without a millage increase while also covering expenses that should be paid for by the local government fund diverts money that could be used for Sumter residents, such as installing external lights and playground equipment at some of the community centers, he said.

Unlike the city, which can raise rates for water and trash services, the county's option would be to raise the millage rate, which would raise taxes, he said.

The council should send a letter to the House committee listing its expenses for the state agencies including rent, utilities and maintenance, Baten said.

He said he does not think the Ways and Means Committee will provide the proper funding, though, because the members do not think the counties need it.

Rep. Smith said he told council Chairman Jim McCain - who asked about the county receiving full funding based on the 4.5 percent formula, prompting his response - that Sumter County has not shown the South Carolina General Assembly that it is operating outside of its current funding to handle its state obligations.

The Ways and Means Committee has reached out to the counties of South Carolina for about six years to help recalculate the formula that was created decades ago, but the counties have refused to participate, he said.

Smith went on to say that the state has found itself to be in a similar situation as the counties.

In the grand scheme of things, it is not fiscally possible to provide the local government fund based on the current formula because the state must also provide federally mandated services for its residents, Smith said.

The current formula is binding the state's responsibilities based on legislation created during a different time, he said.

However, Smith said the House committee is willing to negotiate with the counties to make a stable path forward.

County receives checks for cost saving upgrades

Representatives of TRANE Building Advantage - a company hired to upgrade utilities at 10 county facilities with energy-saving equipment - presented the council with two checks - $44,300 from TRANE and $88,700 from Duke Energy Progress - for money the county earned back after taking several cost-saving measures during the commission of the project.

Sumter County entered a $5 million contract with TRANE for upgrades to lighting, HVAC and plumbing in 2015.

The energy-saving changes are estimated to save the county nearly $300,000 each year.

Hometown heroes recognized

County council members recognized Sumter's first responders who received American Legion Law and Order Awards for making strides in their various professions last year.

Award recipients include:

- Police Officers of the Year: Lead Cpl. Cameron Bryant and officer Joseph Kellahan;

- Correctional Officer of the Year: Cpl. Adrienne Richardson;

- Deputy Sheriff of the Year: Cpl. Olivia Gibson;

- Emergency Medical Technician of the Year: Lt. Kimberly Anne Graham; and

- Firefighter of the Year: Nicholas Hill.