Horry County began its budget process for Fiscal Year 2020 with its fall planning retreat November 28th.
This was the beginning of what could prove to be a very interesting budget year.
Incoming council chairman Johnny Gardner pledged on the campaign trail, “Public Safety Priority One Day One” as his approach to the county budget process.
County staff heard a portion of that message. The early budget outline includes an additional approximately eight million dollars for public safety. That addition is based on what staff believes can be used from excess hospitality fee revenues after Ride I bonds are paid off early in 2019.
However, despite a county council resolution to use approximately $18 million from those revenues toward public safety, infrastructure and areas like recreation, staff has held firm to the $8 million it proposed last July.
Additionally, council directed staff to prepare an ordinance amending current county code pertaining to the funds received from what is known as the 1.5% portion of hospitality fee revenue that currently goes to pay off the Ride I bonds. Currently all of that revenue is deposited in a special road fund per county code.
To date, staff has not presented an ordinance amendment to change that designation to include public safety, infrastructure, recreation and the like.
This avoidance of acting on a resolution designating the will of council can only be attributed to at least certain members of county senior staff continuing to desire that all of the Ride I 1.5% money go to I-73, which was initially proposed to council.
Therein lies the basic contradiction in the county budget process – council directs, but staff does what it wants to.