York County Council approves $31,000 for extra staff holiday

adouglas@heraldonline.comJune 3, 2013 

FILE. York County Council at work during a recent meeting.

ANNA DOUGLAS — adouglas@heraldonline.com

— York County employees will get one extra holiday next year, costing the county about $31,000.

Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said that “as a true conservative” the added expense gives him “indigestion.”

“With this budget, it just makes no sense,” he said.

Last month, Blackwell suggested the council needs to make deep spending cuts to a proposed $96 million budget for next year.

Most council members, including Blackwell, have said they will support a property tax increase to ensure the county doesn’t default on its loans and are open-minded to making certain cuts.

Later this month, the council will vote on whether to raise taxes by about 2.4 percent or an extra $6 a year on a $100,000 home.

For business owners with $500,000 of commercial property, the proposed tax increase would add about $45 a year to their bill.

Given the need to reign in spending, Blackwell said he didn’t think an extra holiday would improve employee retention or affect hiring prospects, so he couldn’t support adding the personnel cost.

Councilman Chad Williams also voted against the extra employee holiday.

The money spent on adding another day off could be rerouted to hiring more people, he said, which many departments say they need.

Still, Williams said, “employees are (the county’s) biggest asset” and some sort of morale boost is needed.

Councilman Bruce Henderson voted in support of the extra holiday but said it was time to “draw a line in the sand” by capping the number of holidays.

York County staff members will have 11 holidays – the county average in South Carolina.

Councilman Bump Roddey proposed the additional holiday earlier this year, saying York County needed to keep up with other local governments in order to attract high-quality job candidates and to retain its best employees.

As Monday’s meeting discussion turned to the budget, Roddey spoke out against the notion of cutting employees’ hours or performing layoffs to reduce the county’s spending.

Employees are already doing more with less because of layoffs a few years ago, he said.

He supports raising the property tax to help ensure the county can pay its debt and would consider raising taxes more to cover the county’s operations cost, he said.

“We can’t just wait until the clock runs out,” Roddey said.

“We need to start thinking where we’re going to be in three or four years down the road, tax wise.”

If council members refuse to raise taxes and opt instead for budget cuts, York County will have a lot of “unhappy campers” by 2016, he said.

The county’s population is booming, Roddey said, and the quality of services needs to keep up to meet the population’s needs.

Current budget proposals call for using up to $8 million from the county’s reserve funds to close the gap between spending and money brought in.

Earlier proposals suggested that the county would need to use nearly one-fourth of its $45.5 million reserve fund to cover costs.

York County will run out of reserves to cover its operating costs in the next few years if it doesn’t raise property taxes, Roddey said.

Henderson continued his opposition to any property tax increase, saying the county should cut an average of 5 percent “across the board” from each department’s budget.

Raising the property tax is not the answer, he said, because so many people in York County are unemployed.

A 2.4 percent increase in taxes to meet the county’s debt service needs is necessary, Blackwell said, because of the tax reduction issued two years ago.

Still, he said, property taxes won’t be as high as they were two years ago if council members approve the proposed increase.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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