Williamsburg County avoids shutdown; bigger budget woes loom
KINGSTREE, S.C. (AP) — Williamsburg County avoided a government shutdown by passing a budget, but the county supervisor warned council members their spending plan doesn’t resolve ongoing problems.
Williamsburg County Supervisor Tiffany Wright asked County Council to pass a one-time $40 fee on vehicles or take other steps like furloughs for county employees to raise more revenue after the county ended up in a deficit and also is dealing with a possible big federal settlement over unpaid wages.
Council members refused, leading to a possible shutdown because no spending plan was in place when the fiscal year started July 1. Instead, the council voted to basically carry over last year’s $22 million budget with no cuts or additional revenues.
Wright went on Facebook after the council’s emergency meeting Tuesday to explain her position, saying she told County Council in March they were $600,000 in the red.
“I won’t let us go deeper in the hole. So I have to take action now,” Wright said.
Without the vehicle fee, Wright said the county may have to lay off employees or require them to take time off without pay to balance the budget.
Looming over the budget problems is a possible federal settlement for unpaid wages over two years. Wright did not give details on how much that might cost.
“You voted for me, You asked me to do a job and I won’t be intimidated,” said Wright, who was elected county supervisor in 2018. “I will impose exactly what they have approved but we are going to make sure we are fiscally responsible.”
Williamsburg County is 85 miles (137 kilometers) east of Columbia. It doesn’t have an interstate and is one of South Carolina’s poorest counties with a median income of just under $31,000 — nearly $20,000 below the state average, according to U.S. Census figures.
Wright said she also is waiting for an audit of county spending that was supposed to be finished about the time she took office. A county or other local government has to have a clean audit to get their share of state money and court fines, according to South Carolina law.
“I am going to have to take some action necessary so at the end of the day that we don’t bankrupt this entire county and end up shutting down for real,” Wright said.
County councilman Samuel Floyd told The Post and Courier of Charleston that several council members aren’t sure there is any deficit.
“Where the increased spending has gone to I’m not sure,” Floyd said, noting earlier audits of county finances have shown no problems. “If we are operating in the red, it absolutely comes as a surprise.”
Floyd said he can’t support any fee or tax increases and if a deficit really exists, he has no opinion on what Wright should do.