By Paul Gable
Horry County’s funding for Coast RTA could be more affected by a tight county budget than by the current controversy the agency is embroiled in with SCDOT over Coast RTA’s cancelled sign and shelter project among other differences.
County staff had to cut $750,000 for dirt road paving from the budget just to present a preliminary balanced budget to county council at the council’s budget retreat this week. Coast RTA funding remained at $1.055 million in the preliminary budget.
Cutting dirt road funding has serious impacts on the citizens of at least five council districts, all of which have little to no bus service. Additionally, it has lesser impacts on five more council districts that do have some level of bus service.
If the question comes down to cutting dirt road paving or cutting Coast RTA, the bus agency probably loses.
But, that isn’t the entire problem by a long shot.
County council wanted to give a 2% raise to county employees. That raise was effectively cut to 1% during first day discussions at the budget retreat.
Council will only begin to discuss enhancements to county departments and county funded agencies on the second day of budget discussions.
The Sheriff’s Department, Master-in-Equity, Clerk of Courts, Coroner, Probate Judge and Treasurer all have legitimate requests for additional personnel, some of which are the result of recent unfunded mandates issued at the state level.
None of the enhancements are included in the preliminary budget but, some will make it in. Money will have to be cut from other areas to keep the budget balanced because revenue is basically flat.
Coast RTA is currently suffering from an image problem, with at least some council members, as well as perceptions of its needs versus the rewards it produces measured against other funding needs versus rewards for limited tax dollars.
Much discussion remains about the county budget before it receives final reading prior to the end of June.
How well Coast RTA stacks up in the funding pool could be decided partially by the final report of the Special Committee on Coast RTA currently studying the difficulties arising from the sign and shelter project and intermodal center project and partially from its county wide public image.