The Fairfield County Council began its 2012-2013 budget process at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday evening by holding its first reading on Ordinance 607 to establish operating and capital budgets for the fiscal year commencing July 1. And, for the first time, the budget document will be paperless and is now online for public review.
County Administrator Phil Hinely presented a summary worksheet report listing the changes he recommended to specific line items in the projected $37,452,513 budget, which is $526,786 more than last year.
“I am honored to present for your consideration and approval the budget proposed for the fiscal year 2012-2013,” Hinely read from his pre-written recommendations letter to the Council. “I am pleased to report the County continues to have its audit completed on time with no negative comments. Even in these difficult economic times, the County continues to maintain its bond rating of A+ which was increased from A- several years ago.”
“The focus of Council’s most recent budgets has been providing governmental services to the constituents at a reasonable cost, protecting the property values of our citizens, maintaining the building and grounds of County properties and positioning Fairfield County for the long overdue economic recovery,” Hinely continued. “The majority of these goals are ‘work in progress’ goals, which means we are continually striving to reach them and maintain their high standards.”
Hinely said some of the notable initiatives in the upcoming budget include continuing the greening of the County. The wood chipping site on Old Airport Road is scheduled be operational and receiving recyclable materials by July 4. The Jenkinsville recycling center is scheduled for an upgrade and the Mitford recycling center is scheduled for improvements. Due to high volume at the Winnsboro recycling center, additional improvements are scheduled there as well.
To comply with the ever increasing training needs of the volunteer fire service, the position of Deputy/Training Officer is being created in the Fire Marshal’s office.
“This begins year one of a three-year plan developed by the Fire Marshal to address the needs of the County, especially as it pertains to V. C. Summer,” said Hinely. “Adjustments are made (in the suggested budget) to reimbursement amounts to volunteer firemen for various types of activities to help offset their personal expenses incurred as a result of being volunteer firefighter.”
Hinely said Phase One of the Fairfield Commerce Center being constructed at Peach Road is expected to be open for business in late spring 2013.
He said fuel is the County’s fastest increasing cost, and the employees are being sensitised toward conservation. However, the County is a vehicle intensive organization and when the public requests an emergency vehicle (sheriff, fire, EMS,) the County must respond.
Deferred maintenance from previous years continues to be an issue of concern, Hinely said. Most County buildings were constructed prior to computers, fax machines and grounded electrical receptacles. Improvements are systematically being made to cure those issues.
Hinely is recommending a 2 percent lump-sum payment to all full-time permanent employees effective the first pay period in July as they have not had a pay raise in four years. He is also recommending a reduction of one paid holiday at Christmas from three paid holidays to two. The day after Christmas will be eliminated as a holiday, changing from 11 paid holidays per year to 10.
“This budget is in compliance with State statues regarding millage caps, meaning any increases to this budget must be offset with reductions in other areas,” Hinely said. “The millage increase allowed this year by the State is 3.16 percent.”
“I want to look at some of the things once we have our budget workshops,” said Council member Mikel Trapp. “I don’t think it is fair to take away one of the employees’ holidays. They haven’t had a raise in four years, we give them a 2 percent raise and take away a holiday? It isn’t fair.”
Consistent with Council directives to reduce, recycle and reuse, this budget is presented in a paperless format. Interested individuals may access the budget at www.fairfieldsc.com/secondary.aspx?pageID=253.
The first Council budget workshop was held last evening. The County Budget Public Hearing is scheduled for April 23 at the County Administration Building at 6 p.m., followed by the Council’s second reading of the Budget Ordinance. The public is invited to attend and make comments regarding the proposed 2012-2013 budget.