2007-10-19 / News

Richland County Council meets October 16, 2007

By Mike Cox MWC423@bellsouth.net

Roll call

Chairman Joe McEachern, Vice Chair Val Hutchinson, Joyce Dickerson, Norman Jackson, Damon Jeter, Paul Livingston, Bill Malinowski, Mike Montgomery, Greg Pearce, Bernice Scott, and Kit Smith were present.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Girl Scout Troop 2216.

Presentations

Kyle Michel and Neal McClain of Engenuity gave the council an update on the status of the ongoing effort to make Columbia a national leader in fuel cell innovation. The organization is building a knowledge economy designed to coordinate local governments, schools, and businesses to encourage development of new fuel economy business, primarily hydrogen powered vehicles.

Richland County Coroner Gar y Watts was commended for his quick action in a recent robbery at Pizza Pro. He followed the suspects and called the Sheriff 's department. His actions led to the arrest of two suspects.

Reconsideration

Bill Malinowski asked for reconsideration of the budget amendment before the minutes were approved. He felt the new auditor's suggestion wasn't given enough discussion in the last meeting.

Agenda

After okaying the consent agenda and unanimous approval of a budget amendment to fund the Victims Assistance Department for the next year, the council got down to what really mattered; establishing slogans for the next election.

Malinowski offered an amendment to accept the auditor's version of the millage estimate for next year's budget. The auditor had proposed using a portion of the fund balance, which is the county's version of a savings account, to reduce the millage for the year, thus reducing the tax bill for most Richland citizens, at least temporarily.

Mike Montgomer y reminded the council of his argument at the last meeting; that this isn't a question of making adjustments to a budget, but a question of having working capital for the upcoming year. His main contention was the need of the council to use discretion in funding individual projects rather than taking the county's emergency funds away to impress voters.

Paul Livingston said reducing the fund balance or lowering the millage should be a policy decision, not a one night discussion. Greg Pearce said he was very concerned and reducing the millage was a real risk to the county. Smith said regardless of the position a council member took, the decision shouldn't be made in a quick, emotional, discussion.

Bernice Scott said she was disappointed in Richland Council, who met for months on the budget, hired and trusted a staff and administrator, passed a budget based on all that work, and is now considering changing everything in one meeting.

A substitute motion to accept the auditor's suggestion and refund any balance was proposed by Norman Jackson. It was defeated 8-3. Malinowski and MccEachern voted with Jackson.

A proposal by Pearce to pass the staff budget recommendation and immediately study the way the county handles the fund balance was passed by the same vote and voters. Whether the fund balance is too high or not, the council will form a committee to look into it before the next budget year and make adjustments if necessary.

After executive session, the meeting was adjourned.

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