Due to a higher than expected payment from the federal government under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, and a $400,000 carryover from a 911 fund, the Pocahontas County Commission was able to increase funding for other purposes, including contributions and a reserve stabilization fund. The Commission approved a budget revision with the changes during its meeting last Tuesday afternoon. Commissioner Jamie Walker was not present.
The Commission previously budgeted for a PILT payment of $748,000, but received $801,000 – $53,000 more than expected. Another $400,000 from a 911 fund carried over to this fiscal year, allowing the Commission to revise its budget upwards by more than $450,000.
The Commission added $50,000 to its contribution fund, bringing the total in that account to $75,000. The Commission distributes money from the fund to various local groups such as arts, school and community improvement groups. The $75,000 contribution budget for this fiscal year is half of last year’s budget of $150,000. The Commission revised its contribution policy last month to reduce the maximum contribution to $5,000 per group, a reduction from $10,000 allowed under the Commission’s previous policy.
The Commission also added $300,000 to a stabilization fund, a reserve fund allowed under state law to “protect against reducing service levels or raising taxes and fees because of temporary revenue shortfalls, unpredicted one-time expend- itures or emergency situations.” The amount of money in the fund may not exceed thirty percent of the county’s most recent general fund budget. The Commission also added $31,000 to its contracted services account and the remainder to the Health Department and a contingency fund.
Commission Assistant Sue Helton reported that the State Auditor had approved a 12 percent pay raise for Pocahontas County elected officials, at an annual cost to the county of $58,000. Earlier this month, the Commission submitted a report to the Auditor of “no opposition” regarding the pay raise.
Day Report Center Director Tammie Alderman provided a monthly update. Alderman reported that four clients had successfully completed the program and that two had been terminated due to violations. Alderman said the Center’s gardening project is successful and the Center is providing fresh vegetables from the garden to local senior centers and food banks.
“The participants are actually enjoying it and learning from it,” Alderman said. “I think they’re learning some good skills because it’s not just about the planting. It’s rock removal and weed removal and they’re learning about maintaining the ground. We’re just excited because it really is doing well. Next year we’re going to expand it.”
The Commission heard comments from Snowshoe property owner Trent Tonsmeire regarding a proposed resort area district (RAD). Tonsmeire, who resides full-time in South Carolina, said Snowshoe receives a disproportionately low level of county services in relation to the amount of tax collected from resort property owners .
“I’m familiar with the RAD and what I’m trying to understand is – before we try to tax other people, whether it’s homeowners or people visiting Snowshoe – I think it’s only fair that Snowshoe homeowners, like myself, ask the question of what percentage of services are we actually getting provided by Pocahontas County?”
Fleming said about half of Pocahontas County property taxes are collected from Snowshoe, but did not have a figure for the percentage of county services provided to the resort.
“Any time there’s fire or police needs at Snowshoe, it is the county fire and county Sheriff’s Department that’s responsible for meeting that need,” Fleming said .
“It would only be fair to the people paying this bill, to have a permanent police department up there on top of the mountain, when the resort is open,” said Tonsmeire. “I think that is a fair request. Why can’t you guys contribute to the golden goose that’s providing the largest portion of your finances? You can’t take a dollar and give back a nickel and think we’ll be happy.”
Commissioner William Beard said the Sheriff is responsible for allocating police resources.
“The Sheriff is an elected official and part of his job is to work out with the deputies to provide law enforcement in various parts of the county,” he said. “If he’s not willing to or can’t do it, then there’s something that should be worked out.”
Fleming said the Commission would consider Tonsmeire’s concerns and try to find a solution.
In other business, the Commission:
– Renewed a contract with GST for computer network services in the Courthouse, at a cost of $636 per month;
– Appointed Judy Fuller to the Parks and Recreation Board;
– Re-appointed Dennis Driscoll to the Historic Landmarks Commission;
– Scheduled a special meeting on July 24 at 4:20 p.m. to consider and act on an Emergency Voting policy, and;
– Rescheduled the next regular Commission meeting to Thursday, August 7 at 8:30 a.m.