The Van Wyck News

Volume 7 Number 5
A Voice for Freedom      3 May 2015
      Over the last several years Keith Tunnell, President of the Lancaster County Development Corporation, has built his 501(c)4 organization  into one of the most productive such organizations in the state. LCEDC has been responsible for bringing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to Lancaster County by negotiating agreements with Red Ventures, Keer America, Duracell, Nutramax, the Haile Gold Mine and many other organizations. LCEDC has been built into a substantial organization with private resources from dues, donations and grants often equaling or exceeding the public support received from the Lancaster County, Lancaster City and the Towns of Kershaw and Heath Springs.
     In the beginning the County covered the payroll for LCEDC and provided the retirement and health insurance benefits, writing the payroll checks and providing benefits through the state on the same basis as regular County employees, even though the LCEDC employees were actually hired, fired and directed by LCEDC management, not County staff. This is a common arrangement, shared by virtually all other economic development organizations in the state and many other organizations as well.
     For the last four or five years the County Administrator and some members of County Council have expressed discomfort with the fact that County management does not control LCEDC employees by setting salaries, hiring, firing, etc. yet continues to provide health insurance and retirement benefits through the state Public Employees Benefit Administration. This discomfort has increased as the County has fallen further and further behind the market in compensating its employees while LCEDC has shown an increasing willingness to use its private money to supplement the compensation provided its employees by the County to compensate its employees at market rates.
     This dispute reached a decision point at the last (27 April) County Council meeting when the County Administrator announced that he had made the decision that LCEDC employees were not County employees for the purpose of benefits, and demanded that LCEDC apply to the Public Employees Benefit Administration for its own account by 1 May 2015. Protests that it would be much less expensive to allow the present situation to continue fell on deaf County Council and County Administration ears; they would face Armageddon rather than have the present situation continue.
     A delegation from Lancaster County visited the Executive Director of the Public Employees Benefit Administration on Thursday 30 April and were told that while it is possible that some organizations are receiving benefits from PEBA that probably do not qualify, PEBA does not seek these organizations out from the organizations it acquired on its formation in 2012. On the other hand , if situations come to its attention it must follow the law. Under the law, LCEDC qualifies for PEBA retirement benefits, but not for health and related insurance benefits. LCEDC must seek these benefits from private sources and exit the PEBA system as soon as possible.    
     Under the County's agreement with LCEDC, the County provides LCEDC employees with these benefits, and will now need to reimburse LCEDC the cost to obtain these benefits on the private market. Although not known precisely at this time, the cost to the County could easily approach $60k per year.

FY 16 County Budget
      The FY16 County Budget took another step forward on 30 April with a presentation to the County Council meeting as a Committee of the Whole. The basic budget document (Version 5) is available here.  This is a daunting document, 150 pages of detailed  financial information with very little explanation. A department by department explanation is found here.
     The long and the short of the situation is that the new (Version 5) budget has found a little more revenue and cut a few expenses and is said to be balanced with a 1 mil property tax increase. The core governmental functions missing in the Version 4 budget are still missing in Version 5; the Criminal Justice System still lacks Sheriffs Deputies, prosecuting and defense attorneys and the E-911 system still hangs by a thread in the Version 5 budget. The 2016 election is still in danger due to lack of Voter Registration manpower. The Stormwater Project is still blown off. An additional obligation to fund LCEDC health insurance, likely to be at least $60k, must now be added to the list. There is the ability to increase the property tax by an additional 2.8 mils which would provide an additional $800k (out of a $43MM budget) to fix these fundamental problems.
     In addition, it must be pointed out that the $260k allocated for employee salary adjustments is divided as follows: $82k for a 0.5% cost of living increase for employees with at least six months but less than 10 years of seniority, $88k to give substantial raises to employees making less than $50 k but with at least 10 years seniority and $94k to give substantial raises to the 25 County employees, mostly senior managers,  making at least $50k and having 10 or more years seniority. With inflation running about 2%, the lowest paid employees are being asked in effect to accept a 1.5% pay cut so that 25 long time senior managers making more than $50k can have raises averaging 6%.   
     The Administrator's Version 5 budget thus carefully preserves all the problems of the Version 4 budget, but provides the ability to raise taxes an additional $800k in case County Council wanted to address something else. To this has been added the obligation to fund LCEDC's health insurance budget, formerly done through the state.  
     For the next step there was general agreement among the Council members and the Administration  that available funding should be used first to provide the Sheriff with four new deputies (rather than 12 as requested), then to provide the Solicitor and Public Defender with one new attorney each, then to provide the Recreation Department with a full time program supervisor in Indian Land, then an expungement clerk for the Sheriff's Department and funding for the Stormwater Project. Total for these items is $507k, which could be funded through a property tax increase. Some provision must be made for funding the LCEDC health insurance program, a need that was not known at the 30 April meeting, but which could also be funded via a property tax increase. Note that the integrity of the 2016 election is still in question, the Sheriff's funding is far below the minimum required to do a good job. There has been no willingness by County Council to question any of the administration assumptions that went into the original Version 4 budget; a a result all these assumptions are still in place. 
     The Administration is proposing a December Spend - a  - Thon to make sure that any monies that might be available at that time are committed before the 2017 Budget Cycle begins.
     The overwhelming impression is that this budget, like the previous four or five, did not proceed from a desire to provide the people of Lancaster County with the best possible government at the lowest possible cost, but from the desire of a powerful individual with an agenda to pursue. Core governmental functions have been left to feed off the leftovers  rather than having core governmental services at the beginning of the budget
     The next step will occur at the 11 May County Council meeting, 6:30 PM in the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St., Lancaster. 


Privacy Policy

UDO Rewrite
     Rewriting the County Unified Development Ordinance has very large implications for Van Wyck. This project is being done by the planners at the Catawba Region Council Governments. An update on this project was presented to the Infrastructure and Regulation Committee of County Council on 14 April. A copy of the presentation is available here. Van Wyck is classified as Rural Living on the Future Land Use Map, adopted by County Council last December.  The UDO rewrite defines what Rural Living means. In terms of current zoning, it is R45, with one acre lots and cluster developments are not allowed. Of course, this does not prevent County Council from doing whatever it wants.  

Land Use Study
     A county wide Land Use Study and a nine month moratorium on zoning and boundary changes are proposed for a public hearing at the Planning Commission meeting on 19 May. We just went through this process of defining land use throughout the County last years and came up with a Future Land Use Map that was adopted by County Council on 8 December 2014. I have requested a copy of this proposed ordinance; none is available on the County website despite an assertion of availability in the ad in the Lancaster News for Sunday 3 May.    

CDC Activities  
5 May 2015 - CrimeWatch - 7:00 PM, CDC Meeting 7:30 PM High School Seniors will be recognized at this meeting.
4 July 2015 - Fireworks with VWVFD
12 Sep 2015 - Fall Festival - 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
24 October 2015 - Halloween Party
28 Nov 2015 - Put up poles for Lighting the Way
2 Dec 2015 - Christmas Parade - Noon
13 Dec 2015 - Lighting the Way - 4:00 PM 

Fall Festival
     The Fall Festival is scheduled for 12 September 2015, but it is not too early to think about being a vendor. A vendor application is available here.  
J.R. Wilt Editor