By Paul Gable
Funding for Coast RTA was almost removed from the Horry County budget for next fiscal year during last week’s Horry County Council budget retreat.
A motion to remove funding from Coast RTA was made and seconded and was only stopped by the intervention of council chairman Mark Lazarus.
Lazarus convinced his fellow council members the most recent Coast RTA update on its funding agreement with Horry County should be heard by the Administration Committee before a vote to remove the agency funding is considered.
However, that may be just a temporary reprieve. According to several council sources, the votes necessary to carry a motion to remove Coast RTA funding from the county budget appeared to be achievable at the budget retreat.
Funding for Coast RTA has been a bone of contention among council members for the past several budget cycles and is sure to see much more discussion, both in favor and opposed, before the new fiscal year begins July 1, 2015.
Last year, Lazarus appointed council member Marion Foxworth as chairman of an ad hoc committee to study Coast RTA funding.
The committee recommended continuing to fund the agency at a level of $1.055 million for this fiscal year with the added stipulation that a funding agreement between the county and Coast RTA be signed putting forth various requirements for the agency to meet.
According to our sources, at least five council members appear to be unhappy with progress made by Coast RTA on various requirements in that agreement.
County funding is matched by federal funding for the agency on a dollar for dollar basis.
The total Coast RTA budget is approximately $5 million. Therefore, the loss of county funds would result in a total loss of 40% of the agency budget.
Coast RTA is already dealing with the loss of state funding in the amount of $75,500 per year for five years due to its failed bus shelter project, which led to the firing of then General Manager Myers Rollins one year ago.
State funding is also matched by federal dollars meaning the total loss to Coast RTA is $151,000.
While the ultimate decision has not been made, it is clear Coast RTA is going to have an uphill fight over the next several months to continue receiving county funding at current levels, if at all.