Majority 4 control county budget

WINNSBORO – With no discussion, the Fairfield County Council gave final approval of its $44.6 million budget for 2021-2022.

The vote itself, however, spoke volumes. Indicative of the division under the current council, the budget passed by a 4-3 vote.

The voting bloc of Chairman Moses Bell and council members Mikel Trapp, Tim Roseborough and Shirley Greene voted to approve.

Council members Clarence Gilbert, Doug Pauley and Neil Robinson opposed. Robinson switched his vote to nay after voting for the budget at second reading.

Robinson previously signaled he planned to change his vote, saying after second reading that he hoped the council majority would compromise on some budget items, such as funding sprinkler and kitchen upgrades to the farmer’s market. That didn’t happen.

“I wanted to make a statement on the next reading. I’m probably going to end up voting no if we’re not met in the middle on some things, like the farmer’s market,” Robinson said in a prior interview.

The budget does not include a tax increase. Instead, the budget relies upon withdrawing $3.5 million from reserves to keep the budget balanced.

Council members have faced fierce criticism during the budget process because the fiscal plan increases spending on pet projects while shedding county services and eliminating positions.

In particular, the budget adds $20,000 to publish a county newsletter critics contend is tantamount to campaign literature for the council’s four-member majority voting bloc.

County resident Jeff Schaffer made that assertion while addressing council members during public participation.

“It appears that our sole mission is to undo what was working in good order,” Schaffer said. “What makes you think the public wants to read a newspaper published by the ‘county council four?’”

The budget reduced the county travel budget to make the newsletter “revenue neutral,” though council members still plan to attend an annual conference at a four-star oceanfront resort in Hilton Head.

An exact breakdown of costs for the summer getaway was not available. Training sessions offered at the conference can be accessed online at a substantially lower cost.

Here’s a breakdown of proposed budget motions the council approved and amount of reduction (in parentheses):

  • Remove Mt. Zion furniture from budget ($50,000)
  • Remove vehicle allowance ($12,000)
  • Reduce recycling by 1 day ($69,000)
  • Set recreation budget to match 2021 ($53,825)
  • Set fire budget to match 2021 ($65,775)
  • Remove transit administrative assistant ($18,473)
  • Remove tax assessor temp ($32,941)
  • Remove building maintenance temps ($45,213)
  • Remove animal control temps ($40,304)
  • Reduce hours to county limb site on Airport Road where citizens and contractors can dispose of old limbs and trees ($19,377)
  • Seasonal reduction in recycling center hours ($43,060)

While most motions passed unanimously, some did not.

Council members voted 4-3 on the vehicle allowance line item, which mostly impacts the economic development director. Proponents said providing the director with a suitable vehicle is crucial in making first impressions with prospective industries.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said at a previous budget meeting that cutting car allowances would likely impact the deputy administrator as well.

Fairfield County also initially planned to reduce outside agency funding by 30 percent, or by nearly $180,000, while simultaneously keeping funding to Fairfield County Behavioral Health at 2021 levels.

However, the council opted to fund all outside agencies at 2021 levels, negating any potential savings.

There was hope that Fairfield County might broker a deal for the former Fairfield Memorial Hospital to repay up to one-half of $1.5 million in outstanding debt, or about $750,000.

The thinking was that hospital payments could help patch the county’s budget shortfall. However, a deal had not been reached as of press time.

In addition, the county has expressed hope that federal stimulus money could help address budget issues. That option remains on hold pending guidance from the federal government on how much money Fairfield County might receive, and how any money can be spent.


  1. Polly says

    Is a detail budget posted? The budget is public correct?

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