The Van Wyck News
7 Number 8
||A Voice for Freedom||23 June 2015|
2016 County Budget
The FY 16 County Budget passed its third reading 7 - 0 at the 22 June County Council meeting. A copy of the budget was posted to the County website and may be downloaded here. Core functions of government have been deliberately set aside.
The property tax increase for 2016 will be 1.8 mils, less than the maximum of 2.8 mils allowed under state law. The additional money was spent in this budget, but was taken from fund balance. This is pure politics; Council wants to be able to tell the voters that they did not tax to the max during the election campaigns that will begin in January 2016. State law allows the county to assess unused tax increases up to three years after the fact. Economics will require County Council to impose this tax increase by 2019; it will be imposed when County Council members are less immediately accountable to the voters.
Despite the lack of controversy and the self - congratulatory words from the County about its performance and emphasis on public safety, this is not the budget of a healthy County. This is the budget of a County that is limping along from one year to the next, consistently short of cash because it cannot resist the temptation to buy the Next Big Thing between budget cycles, does not remember from one year to the next what its future financial commitments are, does not pay attention to all the costs associated with its business model and is willing to chew up fund balance to make itself look good.
For a decade or more the County has relied on single family residential development and industrial development via LCEDC as its business, attracting people to the County as a place to live, invest money and add to the County's assessment base, which the County taxes to provide its revenue. The increasing population that comes as a part of this business model increases the cost of government; the assumption has been that the increase in the assessment base would provide more than enough tax revenue to cover the additional cost of government due to the population increase. It is becoming increasingly clear that this assumption is incorrect, at least for the population densities in Indian Land.
Rather than look to repairing its business model, the County is responding to the cash shortages by denying responsibility for core functions of government, blaming the State, lobbying the State to be more generous and seeking new taxes to impose on County residents.
Looking at the single family residential housing business model to make sure that it is actually producing an assessment base adequate to support the County and the school system, which is required to use the same assessment base, does not seem to occur to anyone in County government. It is increasingly clear that what the County is doing with residential and industrial development is not producing the assessment base that is required for a healthy County.
It should be obvious that a healthy County requires a healthy School System and that existing infrastructure capacity used by current development must be replaced. The fact is, however, that transportation infrastructure generally and particularly that represented by Rte. 521, has been used without replenishment for fifteen years. Maintenance of County buildings and facilities is nonexistent; the beautiful facilities are allowed to crumble until catastrophic failure forces emergency action.
The School System suffers from the same constant cash squeeze that the County does and for the same reason; the assessment base is too small to provide for the needs of either the County or the School System as the South Carolina code allows that tax base to be used. Whining to the legislature for relief is not a viable plan of action. The County must start looking to its building projects in terms of the size of the impact on the assessment base and the increase in the cost of government from the population increase and provision must be made for the maintenance of infrastructure, particularly transportation infrastructure, used by the project.
Zoning MoratoriumThe zoning moratorium passed 7 - 0 at the 8 June County Council meeting and will be effective for rezoning projects north of Rte 5 from 8 June 2015 to 8 March 2016 with the possibility of renewal to 8 June 2016 if County Council believes it necessary.
Rezoning projects north of Rte 5 will be considered under the current UDO only if they were filed as of the close of business on 8 June 2015. New projects in the area north of Rte 5 will need to be filed under the new UDO after its adoption by County Council, anticipated to be in March 2016.
IL Special Tax DistrictThe Sheriff's Special Tax District for Enhanced Law Enforcement Services in Indian Land has not been discussed since County Council passed a resolution expressing support for the proposal. The Sheriff is taking the position that he will do the best he can with what Council chooses to give him. If the people want more or better law enforcement than Council chooses to provide funds to support, the people can either pressure Council to provide more money or create Special Tax Districts to provide extra money for specific areas of the County outside the property tax.
It should be noted that the County has deliberately cut about $1MM from the Sheriff's budget over the last three years, apparently in the hope that Indian Land would agree to a Special Tax District to make up the reduction.
UDO RewriteThe rewrite of the UDO is proceeding on schedule, with public input being solicited from all areas of the county during July and August. There will be focus groups and meetings where the public will be invited to look at the maps and text and make comments and suggestions. These meetings will be widely advertised and their results widely publicized. The intention is to follow the procedures that were used last year, to take the comments seriously and to come up with a UDO that will help implement the Comprehensive Plan that was developed last year.
Carolina Thread Trail
The 3.5 mile Twelve Mile Creek portion of the Carolina Thread Trail opened on Thursday 10 June with a ribbon cutting at the Walnut Creek access point to the trail. Access to the trail is from Walnut Creek Park. Turn east off of Rte 521 just north of the intersection with Waxhaw Road. This portion of the trail extends to the North Carolina State Line; work on the North Carolina portion of the Trail is proceeding and the Trail will eventually provide an extensive walking path through North and South Carolina. Map.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Governor John Kasich paid Lancaster County a visit on Monday 15 June 2015 as part of his decision making process regarding a Presidential campaign. The Pavilion at Sun City Carolina Lakes was a warm but comfortable location to listen to Gov. Kasich describe his background, which includes ten years in Congress during a time when the Federal budget actually got balanced. More recently Gov. Kasich has turned the State of Ohio's financial situation around.
The most interesting aspect of Governor Kasich's hour of talk was the lack of traditional political content. "Zingers" were absent, the emphasis was on identifying and solving problems in common sense ways. The approach seems to have worked.
Governor Kasich provided a welcome change from the Jeb Bush/Chris Christie rhetoric that has been dominating the news lately.
Fourth Of July PartyThe Community Development Club and the Van Wyck Volunteer Fire Department are joining together to sponsor a Community Independence Day Party on Saturday, 4 July 2016 at the Community Development Center. The festivities will begin at 6:30 PM, with hot dogs being served beginning at 7 PM ($1 for a hot dog with bun and fixings, drink and bag of chips; for $2 make it two hot dogs). There will be prizes for the best patriotic hat and the best patriotic (red, white and blue) outfit.
Celebrate Van Wyck12 September 2015, 10 AM - 4 PM at the Community Center. An old fashioned small town fall festival with vendors of all types, crafters, kids games, train, gold mine, etc. Vendor Application. Flyer.
7 July 2015 - Meeting - 7:30 PM
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
12 Dec 2015 - Christmas Parade - Noon
13 Dec 2015 - Lighting the Way - 4:00 PM
ConcertEMK Music, run by local flutist Erin Moon-Kelly, and Christ Episcopal Church presented their annual Celebration of Summer Concert on 14 June 2015 at the Church in Lancaster. Featuring Erin Moon-Kelly on the flute, Tim Smith on the piano and organ, Elaine Thrift on violin and piano and Rosemary Webster on double bass and piano, a delightful program of chamber music
provided a very pleasant Sunday afternoon.
The program presented a number of works by various composers, with the feature piece being the Trio, Op. 63 by Carl Maria Von Weber, a substantial work in its own right. Composed in 1819 for flute, cello and piano, the work was rendered with the cello part executed on the double bass, which provided an interesting, somewhat different experience.
The concert was supported by the Lancaster County Council of the Arts and See Lancaster; the performers donated their time. Lancaster County is fortunate to have people of such talent willing to put forth the effort to provide programs such as this one, and for free, yet.
New County TaxesFor a number of years the County has been engaged in a program of finding new taxes to levy on citizens that are not subject to the limits imposed by the state on the property tax. The first of these was the 1% sales tax used to finance the new Courthouse. The second was the Indian Land Special Fire Tax District, in which the people of Indian Land accepted a $75 per household annual fee for enhanced fire protection. The third was the 1% special sales tax renewal passed last year, which, although very poorly executed, is being taken to mean that the 1% sales tax is now a permanent part of County Government. The fourth proposal is the Sheriff's idea that Indian Land will accept another $75 per year per rooftop to pay for police services. Where does it end?
Emergency Medical Services is in need of additional money; will Indian Land accept another $75 per rooftop per year for enhanced EMS service? $75 per rooftop is equivalent to about 3.5 mils of property tax over the whole county, or about 7 mils on the Indian Land area alone. Indian Land would be in an uproar if a 7 mil property tax increase were proposed, but enthusiastically accepts a $75 per rooftop fee. Why is this?
The Stormwater project will need to be dealt with this fall; the County is actively seeking a new tax to impose to pay for this project, which will get expensive over time. When does the County start asking if it makes sense to continue the development patterns that are causing the problem?