UNION COUNTY — After a county council budget workshop, the county supervisor said the county is under budget, despite hefty costs this year.
The Union County Council met for a budget workshop on Thursday to determine the county’s budget for the coming fiscal year. Departments and elected officials put in requests, which were reviewed by council. County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair said council has come to a consensus regarding whether or not requests can be honored.
“All requests have merit,” Sinclair said. “It’s judged from the availability of money rather than the merit of the request.”
Sinclair said the workshop provided him with final feedback from council and by statute of law it is now up to him to present council with a budget. To do so, he said he will look at potential revenue, budget requests, and council’s consensus opinion.
While discussing the budget Friday afternoon, Sinclair presented three main points. First, he said the county has other sources of revenue — besides regular revenue (basic tax revenue) — from which to pull when necessary.
“We paid off a bond early about three years ago to save money, and we had some money (around $180,000) left in that bond account,” Sinclair said. “Can it be used to help us with the budget and honor requests? Yes!”
Sinclair also made the point that the county is currently on track with its budget.
“At this point, we should have spent 83 percent of our budget, and we have spent 83 percent of our budget at this point,” he said. “That’s good news. Better news is that, actually, we’ve spent less than 83 percent because out of that 83 percent, we’ve assisted the hospital financially out of our operating budget.”
In other words, the county is still at budget, even after assisting Wallace Thomson Hospital with a total of around $700,000.
“Had we not assisted the hospital, we would be way under budget,” Sinclair said. “But I’m not complaining because we’re in this thing together, and if we stay together, we’ll make it to the other end.”
Sinclair also pointed out that Union County has lost roughly a half-million dollars per year from the local government fund from the state, which he said equals around $2 million during his four-year tenure.
“We’re only getting $1.1 million, and if it were at mandated funding, we would get $1.5 million — so I have to make up that $400,000,” he said. “The state has not cut the mandated programs we have to fund, so (the county) has to keep up that funding.”
Sinclair said the good news is that — because of economic development — the county’s tax base and FILOTs are up. He said the county can lean on a fund balance, which he called the county’s savings account. He also said the balance is limited to a certain amount, and council will not allow the amount to drop below that.
Finally, Sinclair addressed a statement that he said had been made about the county being $1 million short last year. He said that statement was untrue. He said that came from a county wish list from all agencies, in which they made requests as if it were an ideal king-for-a-day, money-is-not-an-issue situation. However, Sinclair said money is always an issue.
“It happens in households every day. It happens in businesses every day. It happens in government every day. You have to balance the needs against the revenue. That’s what we’re paid to do.”