Advocates for schools, the arts, lawyers for the poor and even preservation of the oral history of Lower Richland lined up Thursday pleading for public money that will keep them going next fiscal year.
Richland County Council heard from a dozen organizations that want enough money to expand, maintain or offer new services starting July 1 through the end of June 2018.
The hourlong public hearing in council chambers ranged from 5th Circuit public defender Doug Strickler telling council that it has approved budget increases for prosecutors six times more than for his attorneys who, he said, represent “the least among us.”
“My office does every bit as much work as the solicitor’s office does,” Strickler said, mentioning a 13-page memo he sent council outlining the needs of defending people charged with crimes who cannot afford private lawyers.
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Richland 2 representatives made the case for a nearly $30 tax increase on businesses and personal property such as cars and boats to pay for their $274 million to run schools in the largely suburban district next year. That increase would be based on each $100,000 in taxable value of properties that are not owner-occupied homes.
No one spoke in defense of Richland 1’s requested $214 million budget that would raise taxes $66 for each $100,000 value of the properties within that district, which is largely inside the city of Columbia.
Craig Currey, director of Transitions, a center for homeless adults, reminded council that Transitions in the city center has helped 1,650 homeless people find permanent homes since the center opened in 2011.
Other pleas came from the Richland Library, Columbia City Ballet, Columbia Museum of Art, service providers fighting against human trafficking and sexual assault, senior services and Pinewood Lake Park, among others.
Council made no decisions Thursday, but is scheduled to cast its first in a series of binding votes on the 2017-18 budget starting late next week. The final vote is set for June 8.