County council seeks $26,000

UNION COUNTY — The effort to balance the county budget while also continuing to provide vital services continued Thursday as Union County Council considered steps that could restore some funding to two outside agencies cut earlier this year.

The county budget for 2015-2016 currently stands at $15,038,122 and is balanced as required by state law. Balancing the budget, however, has not been easy as earlier this year the county was facing a projected $800,000 deficit. That deficit was eliminated by the county cutting 11 positions including two in the Union County Recreation Department, five in the Union County Sheriff’s Office, and four in the Union County Public Works Department.

In addition to cutting positions, the county also eliminated funding to a number of outside agencies including the Union County Council on Aging and Union County Fire and Rescue.

Council on Aging

When council voted to eliminate funding to the Council on Aging, Director Earl Black asked them to reconsider cutting funding to the organization, pointing out that it serves around 300 people a day; around 300 use its food pantry; and another 300 people receive home deliveries from it.

Black also pointed out that the Council on Aging brings $400,000 into the county, but only because of the 20 percent local match it can provide. He said that the cut in county funding might result in a reduction in the state and federal funding coming into the county through the Council on Aging.

This was one of the issues council dealt with at Thursday’s meeting.

“We went back and looked at the Union Council on Aging and determined that they need an approximately $60,000 local match,” Supervisor Frank Hart said Friday morning. “This allows them to bring in $400,000 in federal and state funds.”

Hart said that council looked at how the Council on Aging could continue providing this local match and found that most of it can be found in the value of the facilities it operates.

“We looked at the value of the facilities it operates and the utilities its uses,” Hart said. “With taking that into account we found that they would still need only about $10,000-11,000 in additional funds.”

Hart said that council committed to provide those additional funds to the Council on Aging from either residual funds from this year’s budget or in new funding in fiscal 2015-2016.

Fire And Rescue

In developing the 2015-2016 budget, council had to take into account that in the coming fiscal year the county will be taking over full responsibility for the operation and funding of the Union County EMS.

The Union Hospital District Board of Trustees voted in April to authorize the district’s CEO and the board’s chairman and vice chairman to complete negotiations on a lease and operations transfer agreement with Spartanburg Regional Health System. The resolution states that SRHS has proposed that it take over the operations of the district and build a new health care facility in Union County.

One thing SRHS will not be doing, however, is taking over the operation of the EMS which is currently operated by the hospital on behalf of the county which provides part of its funding. In response to this, council voted in May to incorporate the EMS into the county system at the beginning of the 2015-2016 fiscal year on July 1.

As it prepares for the county to assume full responsibility for the EMS, council is dealing with the needs of the organization, needs that include assistance from Union County Fire and Rescue.

Hart said that EMS management has explained that it needs the assistance of Fire and Rescue, especially in situations involving accident victims entrapped in an automobile. In response to this, Hart said that council agreed to have him meet with EMS and Fire and Rescue officials to determine what services the former needs from the latter and to contract with Fire and Rescue to provide them to EMS. He said that at the present time it is estimated the services the EMS would need from Fire and Rescue would cost $15,000 and he said he believes this can be found in the existing EMS budget without raising new funding or finding funding from elsewhere.

“There is no need to find new funds,” Hart said. “We should be able to find them in the EMS budget.”