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‘Pay-as-you-go’ approach for York Co. projects saving taxpayers millions, leader says

Photos of the solicitor's office inside the Moss Justice Center in 2015, showing its cramped confines and potential danger points. Solicitor Kevin Brackett shows another cramped office for two people.
Photos of the solicitor's office inside the Moss Justice Center in 2015, showing its cramped confines and potential danger points. Solicitor Kevin Brackett shows another cramped office for two people. aburriss@heraldonline.com

A better picture of costs for York County and how to collect taxes to pay those needs could mean big savings for residents, if the county gets both right.

County residents passed an almost $90 million bond in 2015 to address building needs. Facilities are an annual cost with or without bond money, and maintaining them can be costly.

County leaders last year looked at how to fund capital projects. Kevin Madden, assistant county manager, said the approach he’s taking is to factor in expected costs year-to-year and tax accordingly, rather than borrowing money each year and evening out the amount taxpayers pay.

He said this approach has saved taxpayers about $30 million.

“It’s a true pay-as-you-go, and it will be volatile,” Madden said. “That’s something that might cause the taxpayers some shock when they see something go from let’s say 5 mills down to 1 mill, but so be it.”

The capital fund should zero out each year. Madden doesn’t want to maintain a growing capital fund balance. There are still contingency monies in the county’s larger general fund budget.

“The taxpayer can rely on the fact that we’re not going to bank their money and sit on it,” said Councilman Michael Johnson said. “We’re going to spend what we need each year, and that’s it.”

New public facilities aren’t the only tab York County taxpayers will need to pay for in the next decade.

Keeping up with existing buildings, roads and technology will cost the county about $50 million in the next 10 years, based on current needs, county officials say.

“This is where we stand right now,” Madden said. “This budget is not finalized. We’re still working.”

Capital projects, critical needs road resurfacing and technology combine for a cost of $8.2 million this fiscal year. In the coming year, starting in July, they’ll rise slight to an estimated $8.86 million.

Current-year capital projects — costing $3.9 million — include work on air conditioners, roofs and small equipment, for example, at Moss Justice Center; the county law enforcement training center and animal shelter; Heckle Boulevard complex; and libraries in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Clover and Lake Wylie.

Another $1.4 million is slotted now for technology, and $1.9 million for road resurfacing. About a quarter of the road resurfacing projects will carry into the coming year’s budget.

Road resurfacing costs should increase to $2.07 million in the coming budget, while public safety technology will make up most of the total $2.7 million in technology costs.

County officials also are taking a years-long approach to projecting budget needs.

Critical need resurfacing is projected to cost more than $30 million in the coming decade. Moss Justice will need more than $3 million, and the Heckle site more than $2 million.

“This is by location,” Madden said. “So each one of those facilities might have various projects underneath them.”

Some changes are inevitable. Technology costs alone will rise to about $2.7 million for the coming year, but the bid process isn’t finished.

“A lot of that’s going to slide into (the following budget year),” Madden said. “We’re not going to levy that much in taxes. But we don’t have that broken down yet.”

State reimbursements for some items are possible, too, such as for the expected $2.35 million upgrade needed in the next five years for the election department.

Even items for the coming year, which will be finalized in the next few months, aren’t set in stone.

“This is a work in progress,” said Bill Shanahan, county manager. “Before the budget’s signed and approved you might see more changes.”

York County budget

All costs at this point are projections. Some of the larger items include:

Item

2018-19 cost

10-year total cost

Moss Justice Center

$1.12 million

$3.37 million

Heckle Boulevard Complex

$1.5 million

$2.21 million

Rock Hill Library

$1.3 million

$1.87 million

Critical Needs Road Resurfacing

$2.07 million

$30.12 million

Public Safety Technology

$1.8 million

$1.8 million

Tax Technology

$0

$1 million

Registration and Elections Technology*

$0

$2.35 million

All Items Total

$8.86 million

$48.39 million

* Registration and elections technology may be replaced by the state in the 2023-24 fiscal year

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