County Council passes a balanced budget with no tax increase

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Sumter County Council approved third and final reading Tuesday evening of a balanced budget with no tax increase for the second year in a row.


Also during its regular meeting, Council passed third and final reading of a fee-in-lieu incentive agreement for an industry expansion that will see an investment of $150 million from Becton, Dickinson Company that will bring 125 jobs as well.


At the outset of the meeting, a resolution regarding a budget request from Sumter School District was removed from the agenda and deferred until the next meeting as several council members still have questions from the district regarding the request.


County Attorney Johnathan Bryan spoke to council members about the fee-in-lieu of tax (FILOT) and incentive agreement with Becton, Dickinson Company, a global medical technology company.


Bryan noted that BD plant manager Kevin Johnson was in the audience, as was Brian Rauschenbach of Sumter Economic Development. The major terms of the agreement, Bryan said, were: if BD invests $2.5 million within five years, they get a 6 percent assessment ratio; if they create at least 75 jobs within eight years, they get a 25 percent special source revenue credit for 10 years; and if they invest $150 million and create 125 jobs in eight years, they get a 4 percent assessment ratio.


Council Chairman James T. McCain Jr. thanked BD “for continuing to grow here in Sumter, bringing additional opportunities and jobs and to the community,” as they’ve been a longstanding force in Sumter County. He also thanked Rauschenbach for his work as well.


There were no public comments before third reading was approved.


Bryan spoke about an ordinance to amend the master agreement regarding a 15 acre expansion at the Sumter-Lee Industrial Park for BD; there were no public comments and third reading was approved.


Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon spoke to council members about an ordinance pertaining to the annual issuance and sale of up to $2.5 million in general obligation bonds. The key items on the list of capital purchases, he said, included renovations at Patriot Hall, some major upgrades at Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center, vehicles for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, Public Works and Recreation & Parks Department as well as a brush truck for the Sumter Fire Department and a motor grader trade-in for Public Works. Also included is video storage for the sheriff’s office.


Third reading was approved.


Council members approved two proclamations: Proclaiming June 15, 2018, as Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Sumter County and Proclaiming June 16, 2018, as Double Dutch Day in Sumter County.


Clerk to Council Mary Blanding said the first proclamation was a request brought forth by Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments. Blanding also noted that the World Invitational Double Dutch Championship will be held June 14-16 at Sumter County Civic Center.


Councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney said Sumter is privileged as we continue to be chosen as hosts for the Double Dutch event as the various teams enjoy their time here and the local businesses benefit as well.


“They just have a good time in Sumter,” she said, commending the Recreation & Parks Department for their work.


First reading of an ordinance – in title only -- to approve revising the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center contract was approved after Councilwoman McGhaney abstained from the vote.


Mixon spoke about the budget ordinance, explaining that the recommendation before council balances revenues and expenditures at $52,752,483 and includes a 3 percent cost of living increase for employees, a scheduled increase in employer share of retirement and an increase in group health insurance.


“There’s no mill change,” he said. “It’s still 84.4, so no tax increase.”


As part of adopting the budget, Mixon also noted a change to the personnel handbook would stipulate no children of Sumter County employees are allowed at the workplace.


Also included in the fund request are appropriations from the fund balance that would convert the Fire Department to a new headquarters for Emergency Medical Services, demolition of the old jail and construction of a new parking lot at the sheriff’s office for a total of $1.5 million, he said.


Third reading was approved.


When McCain moved to the portion of the meeting regarding committee reports or comments from fellow council members, Councilman Eugene Baten noted his support for the school district to be fiscally autonomous.


Bryan briefly summarized a recent report showing the Sumter County Airport has a direct economic impact of $10 annually to the local economy and an indirect impact of $7 million. Those figures were derived from a conservative study with a solid methodology, he said, as the airport in Sumter compares well to others around the state.


During the Administrator’s report, Mixon thanked Council for supporting the budget, as it’s a lengthy process and each budget provides challenges and opportunities. McCain thanked him and staff for their hard work.


During the public comment section of the meeting, F.D. Schmidt spoke out against fiscal autonomy for the school district. Patty Wilson advocated on behalf of the district. Dr. Brenda Williams spoke out against the district consolidating schools, as did Calvin Bennett.


Council’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on June 26 on third floor of the Administration building at 13 East Canal Street.


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