Editorial: giving raises and raises taxes

City of Clinton employees are getting a raise on July 1 (everybody except the city manager). Laurens School District 56 employees are getting raises from the state and from the school district if the proposed budget receives second and final approval June 27 – and there is no reason to think the budget won’t be approved. Laurens County employees won’t get a raise as the new budget, which takes effect July 1, now stands. The proposed county budget has been approved twice – the first time was a formality, as the actual document wasn’t even presented. The second vote on the budget was May 24. The city and the school district are both giving raises to employees without raising property taxes. County officials say they can’t do that. It will take about $500,000 to give all county employees a raise of 50-cents per hour. That’s just over $1,000 a year for an employee who works 40 hours per week. To come up with that money, County Council will have to increase property taxes by 4 mils, which state law precludes them from doing. Council is trying to find a way around the law to allow them to raise property taxes enough to fund the raise. Council Member Stewart Jones said he will vote against a property tax increase. Council Chairman Joe Wood is putting the blame at the feet of the SC General Assembly, which this year is shorting the county to the tune of $1 million by not fully funding the Local Government Fund. The state is required by a law that the General Assembly passed to fully fund the Local Government Fund, but, as they do in other things, the state lawmakers gave themselves an out. In times of economic hardship, the state can keep some of the money they are required to send back to cities and counties. The General Assembly invoked that clause in 2008 – the year of the Great Recession – and has shorted Local Government Funding since then. Keep in mind the City of Clinton has been shorted LGA funding also, but is planning to give employees a raise without raising taxes. County Council says they can’t do that. Wood said the General Assembly is using money that belongs to the counties to give state employees a 4% raise. At the May 24 County Council meeting, four people spoke against a property tax increase. In previous meetings, council members have discussed the problem Laurens County has in keeping quality, trained employees who are being lured away to higher-paying jobs. One way to combat the brain drain is higher wages, council believes. County Administrator Jon Caime said the county’s staff plans to conduct a comprehensive salary study in the coming year. For years, the county’s EMS and sheriff’s office have bemoaned the loss of employees to larger counties that pay more. We spend the money to train them and then they go to Greenville (as an example), department heads say. We don’t think a 50-cents an hour raise is going to solve that problem. Small cities, small school districts, small counties, small police departments, small newspapers are historically training grounds for young employees who begin looking for a new, bigger, better, higher-paying job almost the first day they begin work. It’s the way of the world that’s not going to be solved by a 4-mil property tax increase. Finally, during a May 24 budget workshop, County Council Member Diane Anderson questioned the need for the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office to purchase 15 vehicles for road deputies. Specifically, Anderson wondered why SUVS are needed. “Can’t we get by with smaller vehicles,” she asked? In response, she got a lame excuse about belt pistol holders snagging on the steering wheels of smaller cars when officers try to exit in a hurry. We would ask how often that has actually happened and what problem was created when it did happen. How long were officers actually delayed from their attempt at a quick vehicle exit. Anderson realized she was outgunned. “I’m going to be quiet,” she said. “I guess it’s a man thing.”

My Clinton News

P.O. Box 180
513 North Broad St.
Clinton, SC 29325
Phone: (864) 833-1900
Fax: (864) 833-1902

 

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