Last month, the Berkeley County Council made plans to deal out leftover funds from the last fiscal year to various departments.
The Sheriff’s Department, though, was not on the list – and the head of law enforcement in the county wants to know why.
Sheriff Curtis Keller asked for 10 new vehicles when he filled out his first budget request, as his vehicle fleet gets older and older. Several police cruisers and SUV’s sit out behind the department now, and are barely touched. That’s because many have logged hundreds of thousands of miles, while rust eats them away.
“We can’t even drive them anymore,” Keller explained. “They are parked, they can’t even be used. I can’t let the guys in them…they’re not safe.”
It’s been a waiting game since his request – and last week, the County Council released a list of where leftover funds from last year’s budget would go. Sheriff Keller’s department was left off of it.
An amount of more than $1 million was recommended to be distributed to several departments – including County Council, court security, information technology, building inspections and permits, engineering, libraries and senior services.
On the other side of the debate, County Council President Doug Copenhaver said while the county did have an unencumbered fund balance of more than $2.5 million, the leftover available funds are $1 million less than the previous year. He stressed that this demonstrates they’re going “backwards” financially.
He also said Berkeley County has some of the lowest tax revenue, per person, in the entire state, and there’s only so much to go around.
“Just because somebody asks for something doesn’t mean we have the money to fund it,” Copenhaver said. “Every year, we have 10 percent more being requested than we have funding.”
In the recent allocations, there are $350,000 labeled as “contingency” funds. Right now, it’s unclear where that money will go.
“The Sheriff has been told five times we’re working towards his cars,” Copenhaver added. “Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand that.”
Copenhaver said the council is considering the option of renting cars through Enterprise, instead of purchasing them outright for county departments.
He added that he doesn’t believe the county’s revenue system will be stabilized until the leftover available fund balance returns to the $3.5 million level.