The Van Wyck News
|Volume 5 Number 5
||A Voice for Freedom||27 May 2013|
County Budget StatusOn 24 May 2013 the County Council Finance Committee met to further consider the 2013-14 County budget, which prior to the meeting had called for a 4.8 mil property tax increase and about $37MM in General Fund expenditures. Yesterday the County received a $400k windfall in that the state budget, currently being debated in Columbia, seems to have increased allocations to local governments. In addition the Road Fee was increased from $25 to $30 per vehicle (highest in the state) and the “Plan Review Fee” applicable to building permits was increased from the current 10% to 50% of the building permit fee, an increase by a multiple of five. The Road Fee increase is expected to generate $175k in the first year and $350k in subsequent years. The “Plan Review Fee” is expected to generate $825k/year. Taken together these represent $1.4MM in additional revenue.
The Finance Committee proposes to use this additional revenue to reduce the residential property tax increase to 2.7 mils, restore a 2% merit increase program for County employees, hire 3 new employees, fund a portion of a new convenience site for Indian Land, restore the 4H program an fund several smaller programs. The second rewrite of the Comprehensive Plan remains in the budget, apparently sacrosanct.
Thus modified the 2013-14 County General Fund Budget will be balanced at about $38MM in revenue and expenses compared to $35.1MM at the same point last year, an 8% increase.
The Building Department, which currently generates about $1MM more in revenue than it spends, will become a primary profit center for the County, generating close to $2.8MM in revenue against about $820k in expenses.
These changes passed the Finance Committee by a vote of 2-1 with Mr. Carnes and Ms. McGriff voting in favor and Mr. Estridge opposing. The Public Hearing and Second Reading on the 2013 – 2014 County Budget is scheduled for the 10 June 2013 County Council meeting. The final budget is supposed to appear on the County website sometime prior to 10 June.
"Tax to the Max" still appears to be the name of the game, but spare those who can squawk and nail those who must pay without complaining.
County Budget ImplicationsThe County budget does not imply that the additional road fee will result in any additional roads being fixed. The money is being used to reduce the General Fund contribution to the Roads and Bridges budget. The intention is to eventually have the Road Fee high enough to completely support the Roads and Bridges budget, which will require a Road Fee of about $40 and will still not result in any additional potholes being fixed. The highest Road Fee charges by any county in the state is currently $30 and many counties do not charge a road fee at all.
The County does not actually repair roads at all, they fill pot holes and this policy will not change. Roads requiring serious repair, such as Kirk Air Base Road and Six Mile Creek Road, will be closed if necessary and so doing does not leave any property owner with no way to access his/her property. Such roads will go on a list to be considered by the County Finance Committee for inclusion in a budget for the following fiscal year. No such budget exists and there are no plans to establish one, so it is not clear what the County Finance Committee will do.
In similar fashion, the five times increase in the Plan Review Fee will not result in any additional work being done by the Building Department, it is simply a way to put additional money into the General Fund. The Building Department exists essentially to protect residents from shoddy design and construction practices, and serves a necessary function. There seems to be something immoral about the county providing such a service and requiring its use, then charging triple what it costs to provide the service. This amounts to a special tax on residents who engage in building. There may be some justification in the case of industrial projects, which are enticed to locate here by forgiving large amounts of property tax, but seem willing to pay high building permit fees. This tax also hits the local landowner who is building a dream house after a lifetime of working and saving.
What is the County doing with all this money besides spending $100k rewriting the Comprehensive Plan using the same process that resulted in an unusable product the first time? They are bringing the Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation in house and picking up $330k in operations expense that was formerly funded by the LCEDC's 501(c)4 corporation. No rationale for doing this has been presented. They are adding an additional planner to the Planning Department and buying some new furniture. They are starting to build a new Convenience Center in Indian Land. They are giving County employees a 2% raise.
What is the County ignoring? The Sheriff has a five year plan to reduce the violent crime rate that is not being supported. The jail is overcrowded because the County does not provide the Solicitor and Public Defender with enough resources to move cases through the system at a reasonable rate. 70% of jail inmates are awaiting trial. A large number of roads throughout the County are in need of repairs with no effort being made to maintain them. Forward financial planning is nonexistent. As an example, the ten full time County firefighters are supported be a grant covering their salaries to the tune of $500k/yr. The grant expires in about 18 months and that $500 k will hit the County budget with no plan to fund it. The County Vehicle Repair Facility is a disaster waiting to happen; apparently someone has to be injured or killed there for anything to happen. The list is longer, but you get the idea. Not exactly a pretty picture.
Community Development Club MeetingTuesday, 4 June 2013 at the Community Center at 7 PM.
Bluegrass JamThursday, 6 June 2013 at the Community Center at 7 PM. Admission is free; donations are welcomed. Snacks and drinks are for sale; soup is free as long as it lasts.
4th of July CelebrationThursday, 4 July 2013 will see a Van Wyck Celebration as the Community Development Club and the Van Wyck Fire Department combine to offer a bluegrass jam and fireworks show to residents at the Community Center beginning at 7PM.
Celebrate Van WyckSaturday 7 September will see the annual Celebrate Van Wyck Festival at the Community Center. Food, live music, crafters, fun and games for the kids including the Gem Mine, the train and the Covered Wagon will highlight this all day festival.
7 September 2013
Feeding the HungryDonations to Lancaster County food programs have fallen off recently. The recession increases the number of people facing hunger and the need for food. The Van Wyck Press is happy to transport food to the agencies serving the needy in Lancaster. If you have food that you would like to donate and would like us to transport it for you, let me know.