Fort Mill Times

Lacaster County hopes to avoid cuts, tax increase

Lancaster County Council members, facing a $350,000 gap in their preliminary annual budget, are hoping to bridge the gap without making cuts in programs or services.

They also hope to avoid even a minimal tax increase, officials said.

The gap in the proposed $31 million budget might be overcome by an increase in the millage value, said County Administrator Steve Willis. The Lancaster County Assessor's Office is working to determine the millage value for the upcoming fiscal year, he said.

If an increase in the millage value does not cover the $350,000 shortfall, Willis said he will consider recommending a modest millage increase, likely less than one mill, or cutting funding to some programs in the county's budget.

The 2009-10 budget is nearly identical to last year's budget, Willis said, with no increases in any department's budget scheduled and no salary increases included. The $350,000 budget gap comes from increases in things "beyond our control," Willis added, including insurance costs and funding for GASB 45, a state mandate that requires counties to pre-fund post employment benefits for employees.

Willis said although the proposed budget doesn't include raises for county employees, there are also no furloughs or layoffs anticipated.

Indian Land's representative on the council, Larry McCullough, said he plans to lobby for one significant change in the proposed budget. He wants to add a deputy county administrator position to assist Willis in his duties.

"Steve is doing an outstanding job, but he is also spending substantial hours in his job that is just overboard. We need him to focus on the things that are best for him to do," McCullough said.

"I am very impressed with how bright he is, his skills, his ability but we also have some small things come through and he has to consume his time on those small things as well."

McCullough also said he hopes to keep any millage increases "minimal."

In past years, county budget talks have yielded additional deputies for Indian Land, additional equipment for their fire departments and personnel for recreation facilities.

What new or increased county services might the Panhandle see from this year's proposed budget?

"The answer is absolutely nothing, same as the rest of the county," Willis said.

The county council will review the proposed budget at its May 25 meeting.