York County Council is facing an unenviable dilemma. Like most growing municipalities, the county finds itself struggling to keep up with the needs of residents who want a certain level of services while not spending beyond its means.
The time comes when a decision has to be made to either reduce services and other in-house expenses, such as employee salaries and benefits, or increase taxes, which account for most of the county’s revenue stream.
During recent budget hearings, county officials have heard requests from stakeholders who depend of county funding, including the Flint Hill and Riverview fire departments, which service large swaths of unincorporated Fort Mill such as Baxter Village and other subdivisions. It’s hard to argue against keeping vital services fully funded, especially law enforcement and fire safety – the latter of which impacts how much residents pay for homeowners insurance.
At a hearing last week, county representatives discussed the possibility of cutting funding to nonprofit services including Keystone, a substance abuse recovery program among other things. Another is Safe Passage, a refuge for battered women and their children in a state that ranks as the worst in the nation for domestic violence. The county is not talking about cutting off these nonprofits but rather keeping their funding at current levels, at best.
We think that’s a mistake.
York County, the fourth fastest-growing county in the state – Lancaster, because of the steady flow of new residents into the Indian Land panhandle, is No. 1 according to new census figures – will only see an increased need for services the nonprofits provide. Without corresponding municipal services, York County is morally obligated to help them keep up.
That’s easy to say, but where does the money come from? Raising taxes is an easy fix and ultimately might be the answer, but that’s neither politically expedient nor necessarily good for the county in the long run. Low taxes are one reason the county is attracting new businesses, which is better than more residential building. On the other hand, York County taxes are so comparatively low that it’s not unreasonable to raise them sometime.
Is that time now? Certainly that’s a tough question. They’ve answered it in Lancaster County, where a slight raise in taxes adds $13 to every $100,000 in assessed property valuation.
In York County, perhaps officials can look at some creative alternatives to a tax hike. Can they find savings in building efficiency such as lowering energy costs and cutting down on paper? Technology has made fax machines essentially obsolete and perhaps phasing out their use could add up to enough money to afford an increase in funding for Keystone and the like. User fees are another option. Pension plans and other benefits are typically sacrosanct, but maybe it’s time to structure benefits more like the private sector, where personal, tax-deferred savings make up most if not all retirement plans.
Ultimately, we expect the county council will come up with a budget that’s both fiscally sound and friendly to re-election plans. We just hope it’s not balanced on the backs of critically important nonprofits.
The agony of defeat
Not since the NFL’s Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s can we recall a heartbreaking run of near glory like the one experienced by the Indian Land High School boys’ soccer team. The Warriors, despite an exceptional first half against a staggeringly good team – Charleston’s Academic Magnet – lost 4-1 in the recent AA S.C. State championship match.
That’s four consecutive years the Warriors played their way to the state finals only to come home in second place. This is America, where we only celebrate winners. The old saying goes something like, everyone will remember the championship team in the NBA, MLB, NFL, college football, etc., from any given year, but not the team that lost.
Not this time.
We want everyone to stand up and give the Warriors and their coaches the applause they deserve for four years of excellent play and winning seasons. They didn’t win the big one this year either, but they took their defeat with class, making no excuses. To us, that makes the Indian Land team winners. Good show, lads.
And just wait until next year.