Guest Editorial: County financials seriously flawed

As one of the best funded (per capita), poorly managed counties in the state, where are we headed?

Council must make a 180-degree turnaround before July 1 to ensure a citizen- centric 2024-25 budget.

That turnaround includes quickly embracing transparency, prioritizing first responders and the horrific dungeon we call the county animal shelter and repairing the unreliable accounting foundation of our budget.

Folks, we are a long ways off from having a transparent or even accurate budget process that is fully vetted (by the public and council). The one budget worksheet book for all citizens to share is secured in the administration building’s lobby, and only serves as a stark monument to council’s indifference and ultimate disrespect toward our 21,000 citizens.

The public deserves at least two weeks of full online access to all budget documents and reports to ensure they can have their informed voices heard before a $50 million budget is approved. Last week’s last minute county budget download fails to list sub categories, fails to show comparisons to last year’s budget or to last year’s actual expenses.

Furthermore, there is much waste in the budget of a county that has one of the state’s highest per capita general funds.

This budget could so easily be recycled to be productive and profitable.

For example, why hasn’t council looked for savings in the light-speed growth of expenses in the five top-heavy departments: administration, finance, tax assessor, community development and economic development? Collectively, these departments have added over $1.2 million to the budget since 2022.

Council has given scant, if any, scrutiny to overspending in these departments over the last budget processes. Instead, this government has added enormous funding for non-essential positions of

PIO and Tourism Minister instead of supporting the essential, underfunded, first responders and animal welfare departments.

The taxpayers deserve better financial stewardship than allowing certain departments to sprout expenses like so many weeds in an unchecked garden.

Why is council not touching the $700,000 in allocations to third party agencies that the county is not responsible for?

Why doesn’t council cut half of the $100,000 in travel-related expenses to high-end resorts instead of further cutting the ever-decreasing animal shelter budget? Our government is a travel club.

Why does council budget only $75,000 for annual investment return when it has some $40,000,000 in settlement money and some $10,000,000+ in the general fund balance. An estimated .15% ROI is criminal when the county could safely earn 20 times that much? Who on council or in the administration is thinking about this?

Is more interest income budgeted in some hidden report council has yet to reveal?

Why has council not compared our budgets to those of similar counties to seek increased efficiency and better service?

Finally, why has council still not publicly addressed the huge financial accounting messes that are likely impacting the accuracy of our current budget?

The pay register always runs way behind with many old invoices being recorded in much later months. We have not completed an audit on time in the last three years.

The recently lost and found $700,000 sends more flags that our budget could be based on questionable or inaccurate financial numbers. The million-dollar

The $1M+ IRS fine fiasco further erodes our confidence in our council’s ability to manage Fairfield County’s well-funded government.

If this council can so blithely and knowingly pass a seriously flawed Comprehensive Plan, as they did at the last council meeting, how do we know the same thing is not happening with this budget?

Council has less than three weeks to straighten up and fly right – to quickly embrace transparency, prioritize first responder funding, cut waste, and properly fund our animal shelter.

Can they do that? We’ll see.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]