NEWBERRY — Newberry County’s proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2017-18 is balanced, with totals for revenues and expenditures equalized at $23,911,852.
According to County Administrator Wayne Adams, the balance was not achieved without difficulty.
“The difficulty arises from two very basic objectives, manage the three property tax levies under county council’s control and maintain fund balance at a level that preserves the County’s liquidity, financial flexibility and credit rating,” he said. “From a high water mark in 2008 to the current fiscal year, total tax liability under the three council determined property tax levies have dropped from 159 mills to 141.2 mills.
“That 17.8 mill (11.2%) decrease occurred even as annual revenue from state aid to subdivisions decline by approximately $660,000, the equivalent of 5.1 mills,” he added. “During the period, growth in recurring expenditures has been held within the bounds of growth in the tax base.”
Adams added that this new fiscal year will bring new spending pressures, on what the staff is conservatively estimating to be a flat revenue base. The most notable is the operating costs resulting from capital projects approved under the penny sales tax.
This will add more than $400,000 in recurring expenditures, $335,000 for the 800 MHz radio system and $70,000 for the Newberry Museum. There are also increased employer contribution requirements under the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS) and South Carolina Police Officers Retirement System (SCPORS).
These total $99,388 for the new fiscal year, and are expected to climb in the years ahead.
“New pressures on capital budgeting come from the need to develop site inventory in order to attract economic development prospects. Today, inventory translates into spec buildings and pad-ready building sites that can accommodate up to 300,000 square feet of building space,” Adams said. “Aside from the $178,500 council has already appropriated to engineer the earth moving to reach the 300,000 square foot threshold, the cost of the site work itself is estimated at $1 million. The proposed capital budget appropriates only $320,000 of this amount.”
Adams noted a few omissions from this year’s budget, on the operations side there is no increased funding for employee salaries, and on the capital side the $205,800 budgeted last year, and previous years, for repairs to the fairgrounds is eliminated.
Also removed was the $475,000 that remained from the courthouse drainage improvement budget after the current work to provide positive surface drainage away from the building through grade changes/landscaping. The debt service levy contains no funding to purchase additional emergency service equipment.
“Staff made these choices/recommendations for the sake of remaining within parameters already discussed: managing the overall levy and marinating six months’ operating expenses in reserve (fund balance),” Adams said.
While the staff did not recommend increased indebtedness or increased millage for the new fiscal year, they did recommend would recommend alternatives over increased use of fund balance. Moody’s recently awarded an essential Double-A bond rating, based partly on the strengths of its history of maintaining strong reserve levels.
“Moreover, in my opinion, our reserve levels represent the backbone of our fiscal policy and should be guarded jealously,” Adams said.
Councilman Scott Cain said he believed they should have a vote to not include the $205,800 for the fairgrounds repairs.
“Several years ago we met at the fairgrounds, we walked around it, we looked at it, we came back and had an open vote to put it in our budget. We have not done it, so I do not think we can just delete it if we voted it in, I think we need to have a vote to delete it or not, we already voted to do it, we just have not done it,” he said.
Adams said council can have a specific vote to do it or not, but said the thinks if council approved this budget as it is drafted, than the will have had a specific vote not to do it, because it is not budgeted.
General Operating Budget
The General Operating Budget is balanced, with both revenues and expenditures equalized at $23,911,852, according to Adams this is a little under $6,000 over fiscal year 2016-17. With the revenue data, and recommended spending levels, Adams believes the fiscal year 2017-18 revenue requirements will be met without the need for an increase in the millage levy for county operations.
The top three revenue sources for Newberry County for fiscal year 2017-18 are current real estate taxes at $12,986,625, vehicle taxes at $1,974,719 and the local government fund at $1,417,103.
When it comes to expenditures four departments had changes greater than 10% or $50,000 for the new fiscal year. Non Departmental is recommended at $420,400 for the new fiscal year, which is $85,630 less than last year. Communications expenditures are recommended at $1,164,710 which is $277,477 more than last year. Economic Development decreased by $165,712 to $876,955 and the Newberry Museum, a new line item, is at $70,000.
The change in Non-Departmental is due to changes in areas such as Worker’s Compensation and health insurance. The increase in Communications is for recurring charges that will be incurred for the 800 MHz Radio Communication CPST project.
“The $70,000 recommended for the Newberry County Museum is an entirely new expenditure line item and is intended to assist in operating costs associated with the new facility,” Adams said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.