County and municipal leaders around the state are carefully watching legislation that recently passed the South Carolina House, which would take millions out of local coffers, by suspending the Local Government Fund. The House measure originally proposed taking 122 million dollars from the fund. Budget writers said they were making hard decisions in a deep recession. But House members reduced that total two weeks ago. Opponents say that if the measure isn’t stopped in the senate, 4.5 percent of the general fund–around 50 million dollars this year–won’t go to local governments.
The most funding would be lost by Charleston County– 3.2 million dollars. Spartanburg County stands to loose 2.6 million dollars. Spartanburg County Administrator Glenn Reed says the local government fund is an essential resource. “We’re already seeing the effects of an economy that’s not good. Additional cuts to this fund would have a tremendous impact on our service level, for public safety, emergency services, roads, solid waste, all the essential services that our citizens have come to expect out of local government.”
Clarendon County Council Chairman Dwight Stuart says it’ll be a raw deal for the public. “We know that it’s going to put all our county governments into an extreme deficit. We feel like the deal we made with the legislature was that we would provide these services and that they would reimburse us and now we feel like they are changing the deal. So it’s really going to put us in a bind for providing services for our citizens.”
Opponents also say that such a cut could grow at any time and that if the cut becomes law this year, the local funding formula may be suspended in future years. Stuart says Clarendon was originally slated to loose almost $900,000 in funding, but that was lowered. “That’s been whitteled down to about $330,000. But we are starting our budget year with a deficit and an extreme challenge because things such as sales taxes are down, and other types of revenue are down. So we know it’s going to work a hardship on us, in practically every area of the budget.”