Richland County Council’s budget planning came to an abrupt halt on Thursday after a majority of council members said they didn’t feel comfortable crafting a spending plan because they had just received predicted revenue figures from the auditor.
Members said they had unanswered questions after the information was presented to them on such short notice.
Council was scheduled to give second-reading approval to outside agencies’ funding for the upcoming year. That was to include funding for both Richland County school districts as well as the library, Riverbanks Zoo and other outside agencies that receive county tax money.
Instead, council members fumbled with unanswered questions and tripped over parliamentary procedure for more than half an hour before ultimately voting to fund each of those agencies and the general fund at the current year’s values as a placeholder. They decided to discuss the figures and make adjustments next Thursday, during their third and final budget reading.
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Richland County auditor Paul Brawley did not provide expected millage values – or, the amount of money expected to be collected by property tax rates – until shortly before council convened, council members said.
A number of council members had questions about what those figures would mean for the outside agencies, particularly Richland School District 2. But county staffers had no immediate answers for them. Brawley did not appear to be present, or, if he was, did not step forward to provide any answers to council.
Rather than “shooting in the dark,” as Councilman Jim Manning put it, to create a spending plan without fully knowing what actual dollars would be available in the next year, the majority of council members wanted to delay the process until they have more clarity.
“I’m sitting up here looking like a deer in the headlights,” Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson said. “If we start doing something (tonight), we’re not going to do it right.”
Council will reconvene Thursday to discuss budget allocations and to give final approval of the next year’s budget, which goes into effect July 1.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.