Three cheers for the Chairman of the Water and Sanitation Committee, Councilman Tim Callanan. He is our newest hero.
Mr. David Jennings addressed Council tonight and explained how the ordinance on mandatory tap in to the water lines works. This presentation was very informative as every citizen over the age of five is aware of the contents of this ordinance and, after all, is the core of the present controversy. Thanks anyway, Mr. Jennings.
Then, Mr. Ed Rogers spent an inordinate amount of time poor mouthing as to the amount of money BCW&S would lose if the mandatory tap in ordinance should be changed. Mr. Rogers displayed his magnanimous side when he offered his solution to the controversy. He said he would be willing to cut the tap in fee by $1000. Voicing this offer seemed to pain him greatly but he was willing to make the sacrifice.
At this point, there was a feeble attempt by the ever opportunistic Chairman of the Finance Committee, Mr. Schurlknight, to plagiarize a few comments. This unsuccessful endeavor produced quite a few snickers from those "in the know".
Alas, Mr. Callanan took the stage. He acknowledged that Mr. Rogers' offer to reduce the tap in fees was a move in the right direction but did not fully address the issue. He pointed out that the tap in fees were but a small part of the financial burden being thrust upon taxpayers faced with the mandatory tap in ordinance. He explained that the situation would require people to pay for the cost of the lines from their houses to the curb along with the cost of any upgrades to the plumbing systems in their houses necessitated by the increased pressure from the water line. Additionally, he said that folks would be faced with a monthly water bill after they had already invested in deep wells and filtration systems. Mr. Callanan was on a roll.
Then, our newest hero instructed Mr. Jennings to draft verbiage to be included in the existing ordinance that would "grandfather in" those living along water lines who have existing wells, exempting them from the mandatory tap in. It seems there is a precedent for such a "grandfather clause" in Dorchester County's ordinance.
Upon observation of Mr. Rogers, Mr. Jennings, Mr. Dan Davis, and Mr. Pinckney, it would be impossible to determine whose nickers were in a tighter bunch.
NOTE: BCW&S could have saved $2.24 million if they had not installed the misguided Hwy. 311 water line in the first place. This advice could apply equally to the Alvin Community and the Bethel Road water lines. These issues are waiting in the wings to be addressed.
Well, we have to partially correct ourselves. We have been very critical of Mr. Davis' hiring of so many professional consultants. In this case, he obviously needed some help with a decision.
Anyone who has visited the County office building has seen the uniformed guard posted in the entry lobby. I don't think anyone would question the need and for such a presence in this day and time. One never knows what kind of nut case might walk through the door. Yes, even good old Berkeley County has its share of nut cases.
The uniformed guards at the County office building stood three 8 hour shifts to secure the building and its personnel 24/7. At least that's the way it was once upon a time. Mr. Davis, in all his infinite wisdom, has decided to change this routine. From now on, there will be no security guard in the building during business hours. The guard will arrive there at 4 PM and stay around to lock the building at 5:10 PM. Then, he will get into his car and cruise the parking lots of the Administration building, the N. Live Oak Drive facility, and the Water & Sanitation office site. He will continue to make these rounds until the morning, at which time he knocks off and goes home.
We all know that the County is short of money but making cuts that put our County employees in jeopardy is unacceptable. Does anyone know where we can hire a common sense consultant for Mr. Davis?
Grab onto your wallets; Dan Davis is at it again. As you all know, last year Mr. Davis convinced County Council that he absolutely, positively had to steal 29% of our tax rebate (from the Local Option Sales Tax ---LOST) that was applied to our property tax bills. Council agreed to steal the money, but, for only one year. They promised the entire 100% would be credited to our tax bills this year.
Well, the new budget is being considered by Council as we speak and guess what? Mr. Davis has included OUR 29% in his budget again this year. He insists he absolutely, positively has to steal our money again to balance his budget. He says he has to reduce the county's debt. Both Mr. Davis and one of his enablers, that pinnacle of financial intelligence, Jack Schurlknight, insist stealing the 29% will not constitute a tax increase.
For those of you who were schooled in Rio Linda, allow us to explain. The dollar amount of the rebate originally listed on your tax bill represented 100% of your rebate. State law mandates that 71% of that amount has to remain as a tax rebate. That leaves 29% that the counties, should their councils agree, can steal from the taxpayer and add to the county coffers . Know that, if the county government takes the 29%, that portion of your tax bill still has to be paid. If only 71% of the rebate is applied to your tax bill and the full amount still has to be paid, would anyone like to venture a guess as to who will be expected to make up the difference? Daaaaaaah. Presto, this equals a TAX INCREASE.
We will attempt to explain this to Mr. Davis and Mr. Schurlknight one more time. Sirs, when our tax bills are higher this year than last and there has been no reassessment, we have experienced a tax increase. Just using round numbers, if our tax bill is $1000 and 100% of our rebate is applied, say $500, our tax bill would be $500. If the county takes 29% of our rebate and only 71% is applied to our tax bill of $1000, we could only deduct 71% of the $500 rebate or $355. That would mean our tax bill would be $1000 minus $355 or $645. When we went to school $645 was more than $500. Who in their right mind would try to convince people that paying $500 one year and $645 the next would not constitute a tax increase?
The "Flea Market Guy" and "The Brain" both insist we have to swallow this tax increase to lower the county's debt. Could we make a few suggestions as to how to lower the debt without saddling the good folks of Berkeley County with another tax increase?
First, we could reverse the policy on all those "take home" cars driven by certain county employees who live as far away from their job as Holly Hill, Summerville, Hwy. 171, and Goose Creek. In case all of you aren't aware, driving these county cars includes all expenses paid such as gas, repairs, tires, maintenance, insurance, etc. How would your family budget improve if you didn't have to foot the bills for your transportation needs? This adjustment to county policy would save the county a pile of money due to the fact that the county's gasoline bill alone tops $150,000 a MONTH. This figure does not take into consideration the cost of the cars or any of the associated costs of operation. You do the math.
Next, Mr. Davis could account for the monies connected to the Santee Cooper pay off. Again, allow us to explain. Santee Cooper loaned Berkeley County a portion of the money to pay for the creation of the Mount Holly industrial park. The former administration struck a deal with Santee Cooper to accept yearly payments on the loan. The money for these payments came, in part, from the fees in lieu of taxes paid to the county by industries within the park. Mr. Davis decided to borrow $5 MILLION from BCW&S to pay off the loan from Santee Cooper. He explained that this early pay off would save the county big bucks in interest. OK.....We have exchanged one legitimate loan for another nebulous loan (?). What are the pay back arrangements with BCW&S. How much interest is involved? Now, all we have to do is account for the somewhat over a million dollars still being paid yearly to the county by the industries located in the park. Where are these previously committed dollars being spent now that the Santee Cooper loan is paid off?
As a sidebar, GE&P can't seem to get anyone to say exactly which pot of money at BCW&S the money for this loan to the county came from. We understand the total loan was for $10 million with only half being utilized immediately. We can be certain that Mr. Davis and BCW&S would be very careful not to take the money for this loan from any account containing impact fees, as this action would be illegal. But, this transaction could explain what happened to the largest part of BCW&S's $17 million "rainy day fund" which was in place when Mr. Davis took office.
The third way that we could suggest that Mr. Davis trim the budget would be by not hiring so many professional consultants to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The expense connected with this practice has ballooned out of control partly due to the fact that most of these contracts do not require a RFPs ( request for proposal) and therefore do not require the approval of County Council. From the number of these contracts, it would appear that Mr. Davis requires the opinion of a professional consultant at every turn. If Mr. Davis is so incapable of making decisions on his own, what in the world is he doing sitting in the center chair?
When Mr. Davis ran for Supervisor, there was really only one plank in his platform. He promised to do away with the supervisor form of county government. He promised real CHANGE. Well, the little man kept his word.......almost. He had to be forced by County Council to put the question of changing the form of government on a ballot referendum. Then, he did get busy addressing the promised CHANGE.
He was instrumental in raising water and sewer rates by 30%.
He stole 29% of our tax rebate from the LOST I (first local option sales tax) which resulted in a surreptitious tax increase.
He has removed most of the attractions from Cypress Gardens resulting in the loss of much of its allure and educational value.
He fired or forced out the majority of Berkeley county's most valuable and loyal top level employees and replaced them with Dorchester County's rejects.
He introduced and supported the LOST II and, when it was agreed upon by referendum, secured a $150 million bond issue to pay for the same road improvements that were used as the reason for LOST II. He justified this action by saying the improvements needed to be done sooner than the LOST II money could be collected. There's only one very large fly in this ointment. Even if LOST II brings in as much money as LOST I historically has, it will only net about $90 million before the sunset clause comes into effect in 7 years. It's "guess who will be called upon to pay the difference" time again.
He has allowed the Fund Balance to diminish to the point that Berkeley County is threatened with having its credit rating reduced.
The financial condition of the county is so bad that county employees are being forced to take (unpaid) furlough days. And, if you ask Mr. Davis why the county is in such dire straights, he will be more than happy to tell you, "It's all Jim Rozier's fault."
GE&P can swear to the veracity of at least one of Mr. Davis's statements to date. He promised change and he has truly brought CHANGE to Berkeley County. If the next year and a half provides more of the same, we can expect to live in a different county when he completes his term of office. We will be singing the same dirge, only on a much larger scale, as the city of Hanahan sang when Mr. Davis completed his term as administrator and had dissolved a $2 million surplus into a $3 million deficit. In Berkeley County, success will have been replaced by failure; Prosperity will have been overcome by need; A rising star will have spiraled into a financial nose dive. At present, it will take a decade to recover what has been lost. By 2010, it's anybody's guess.
We could go on but, by now, I suspect you readers are in information overload. Please, don't take our word for any of these statements. Check it out for yourself. All the records are readily available to verify our facts. All that is required is some effort on your part. If you don't get involved and informed, you have no one to blame for the outcome but the face in the mirror.