Lexington county

Lexington County spending plan awaits challenges

tflach@thestate.comApril 23, 2013 

Joe Mergo

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

— Settling on Lexington County’s spending plan for the year starting July 1 will be more difficult than usual, some County Council members said Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a challenge to maintain our service levels as we continue to grow,” council chairman Bill Banning of West Columbia said.

His prediction came after council members were told that spending requests are $14 million above expected revenue.

Those requests total $122.2 million compared to $108.2 million of anticipated revenue.

Some of the gap between expected revenue and requests could be closed by a tax hike of up to $2.4 million, allowed by the state tax cap to keep pace with inflation and growth.

Council members typically approve small increases in property taxes to pay for the rising cost of routine bills.

As traditional, county administrator Joe Mergo developed a financial plan without red ink.

It leaves decisions on tax hikes for new proposals up to the nine council members.

Many of the requests denied in the administrator’s proposal affect law enforcement and fire protection.

Mergo’s plan provides for six of 10 new firefighters sought but none of the 16 extra deputies and four emergency dispatchers wanted.

Adding deputies as well as opening a new station in the Chapin area can’t happen because “there is not sufficient revenue to support those measures,” sheriff’s spokesman Maj. John Allard said.

Banning wants to include pay raises for the county’s 1,300 employees after foregoing an increase a year ago.

Tax hikes, if adopted, will come as council members modify Mergo’s recommendations in coming weeks before approval by mid-June

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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