Enquirer Herald

Low turnout for public hearing on York County budget

It was mostly “thank you” that the York County Council heard Wednesday at a public hearing on a proposed $86 million budget. About two dozen people showed up and fewer than 10 spoke.

One woman asked the council to give county employees, including her husband, a raise. She was the only person who spoke on the matter.

The council has been leaning toward giving employees a 3 percent merit raise, but wanted to hear from the public before deciding. Raises were a controversial topic in last year’s budget talks, but this year, the discussion has been more about what kind of raise to give.

Most comments came from organizations that receive county support, some in better shape than others.

Agencies that provide services the county would otherwise have to provide can expect continued support. But the county is on track to phase out support to agencies where the county’s contribution is more like a charitable donation.

That includes the York County Adult Enrichment Centers, formerly known as York County Adult Day Care Services, which provides daytime programs for more than 100 elderly and developmentally and intellectually disabled residents of Fort Mill, Rock Hill and York, said Frieda Price, executive director.

Price told the council that the organization has experienced “extreme budget cuts” from Medicaid, their largest funding source, making it a challenge to “stay afloat” and seeking other funding opportunities.

Fundraisers have been a success and, coupled with grant writing and other cost-saving techniques, the organization is struggling but still providing the same level of service, Price said after the meeting.

For several years the organization has received $8,220 from the county. Since 2011, funding has steadily decreased. Having asked for $12,500 this year, the agency is slated to receive $3,965.

The county money helps pay for buses used to pick up and take home clients around the county. The transportation service cost about $60,000 in fuel last year, Price said.

“We ask you not to forget that part of our population that often gets forgotten because they're very quiet,” Price asked the council.

Councilman Eric Winstead said the services provided are not only good for clients, but for their caregivers too “because they don’t get a day off, they don’t get time off,” he said.

Winstead also opened a door for Price to return to the council for help.

“Hopefully, down the road if things get tough with the gas, you could come back before this council and we might be able to do something,” he said.

Winstead’s appearance with the council was his first since he was arrested May 16 after his car ran off a Chester County road – his second arrest for driving offenses since taking office.

Winstead was accused of hitting a sign and charged with leaving the scene of an accident and driving too fast for conditions. His court date is pending. In December, Winstead was arrested for first-offense driving under the influence in York. Two days after his arrest earlier this month, Winstead told The Herald he resigned “effective immediately” from the council, but later decided to finish his term.

Chairman Britt Blackwell said after the meeting that he’d be open to considering a request from an agency that finds itself in an unforeseen situation – “things that people cannot control,” he said.

Blackwell said he was surprised by the low turnout, but attributed it to an easier budget season this year since the county isn’t dealing with a county-wide property value reassessment which it completed last year. The council is able “to do some things we couldn’t do last year,” he said.

“I was suprised in general that we didn’t have any more charitable groups come and talk,” he said, “but I just take that to mean their comfortable with what’s going on if nobody speaks up.”

The council is scheduled to propose changes and give final approval to the budget at its meeting Monday in York.