The lawmakers were guests, and speakers, at the annual Farm Bureau Legislative Banquet.
District 40 Representative Walt McLeod led discussions by saying budget cuts would be the focus of this year’s legislative session.
But McLeod said budget cuts, such as doing away with sales tax on food and cutting property tax, is having just as much impact on state budgeting as a struggling economy.
“If we run out of money we can’t provide services,” remarked McLeod.
He added the S.C. Forestry Commission has already lost 50 employees and due to cuts it can not replace the public safety workers.
County Council Chairman Henry “Buddy” Livingston encouraged support of the continuation of the penny capital sales tax. He says a lot of the revenue from the tax will come from non-county residents and the needs of the county will not be a sole burden of local taxpayers.
County Council Vice-Chair Bill Waldrop spoke of hopes that the capital tax will build satellite fire stations to help lower insurance costs.
School Board Chair Don Saylor says for the first time the district has had to furlough teachers and administration.
Saylor added the district was operating on revenue levels per-student as the state used in 1996.
On the bright side, Saylor added the district’s building projects have wrapped up under budget, and new classrooms will be added at Prosperity-Rikard Elementary School. But the $2.5 million saved from the construction projects is barred from use by school operations.
School Superintendent Bennie Bennett says tough budget decisions will have to be made in the future.
Sheriff Lee Foster said, at the banquet, that some are using the economy as an excuse for crime. For others, the economy means increased use of alcohol, drugs and domestic violence, Foster said.
He added that he is seeing some gang activity in the county, but his agency is working to combat it.