County council approves first reading of budget

Proposal includes no tax, fee increases

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Pickens County Council passed first reading of the proposed budget Monday night.

Council held its April meeting remotely via Zoom Monday night. The meeting is available to watch on the county’s YouTube channel.

“Wants are not reflected in this budget… but instead only needs,” acting county administrator Ken Roper said during the meeting.

During a Facebook Live update earlier that day, Roper discussed the budget and how the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the way the budget was being approached this year.

“One day this will be over and the county will have to have its budget in place,” Roper said.

First reading is in title only and is to “start the process,” he said.

“Council gave me some direction a couple of weeks ago, and one of the things they told me was they didn’t want this budget to add to the public anxiety,” Roper said.

The proposed budget contains no tax or fee increases, he said.

“Anything out there that might have been considered, any changes in fees, changes in taxes, anything like that … we put all that to the side,” Roper said. “County council spoke clearly with one voice, that they want us to put that away right now. This is not the time for that. People don’t need that extra stress.”

Staff tried to make the proposed budget “very similar, in every way we could make it similar, to the one we have this year,” he said.

Council desired to have a budget prepared and submitted “that could be easily digested and expeditiously passed,” Roper said during the council meeting.

“So that county staff and county council could focus on the looming COVID-19 situation,” he said.

Roper said department heads had requested a total of 28 new employees, but the submitted budget has only one of those positions approved.

Vehicle replacement requests were only approved if they were in the best interest of the county’s fleet maintenance budget, Roper said.

“No additional vehicles are being provided, only replacements where our vehicle maintenance folks have said the old vehicles are starting to cause us problems,” he said.

The proposed budget centralizes the fire districts’ training expenses and equipment purchases “so as to maximize the county’s buying power,” Roper said.

“Based on this council’s direction, no fire fees will be increased this year,” he said.

The budget specifies all of the proceeds from the county’s $20 road user fee be allocated exclusively “to work on our county and municipal road system,” Roper said.

“It also provides for the continued operation of our parks and tourism, as well as our economic development initiatives,” he said. “During this time of crisis, I believe we’re learning now more than ever how important those departments are to the well-being of our citizens.”