Aiken County Council unanimously approved Tuesday a 2021-2022 fiscal year budget for the county that provides funding to hire four Aiken County Sheriff’s Office employees to investigate local gangs.
Money also is allotted to provide four additional officers at the Aiken County detention center and to add another deputy coroner position to the Aiken County Coroner’s Office staff.
In addition, there is funding for one new assistant solicitor and one new paralegal for the Solicitor’s Office for South Carolina’s Second Judicial Circuit.
And the Aiken County Auditor’s Office received the money needed to add a full-time position.
“We’re pleased that Council could agree on a plan that put more emphasis on the public safety side,” said County Council Chairman Gary Bunker after the panel of elected officials heard the third and final reading of the ordinance that established the budget.
“We also were able to take care of a few small other areas, but our focus on public safety came through loud and clear,” he continued. “Public safety is our most pressing concern right now. Public safety, by definition, is the most important thing that we do.”
There is $1 million in the budget to help cover the costs associated with demolishing the telecommunication tower on the grounds of the old Aiken County Hospital on Richland Avenue West in Aiken and erecting a new tower near the Aiken Department of Public Safety’s headquarters on Beaufort Street.
Also included in the financial plan is $250,000 to remove asbestos from the old hospital and to cover the costs of “other types of things” needed to complete its sale.
The county will recover that money through the establishment of a multi-county business park, which provides tax incentives, according to Bunker.
“You know how we do these incentives for industries? We going to put incentives on this,” he said.
There is no property tax increase in the 2021-2022 budget, which takes effect July 1.
Eight members of County Council were present at the meeting, which was held at the Aiken County Government Center, and Kathy Rawls participated via telephone.
Five amendments to the budget were passed prior to the financial plan’s final approval.
Revenues and expenditures for the General Fund for the 2021-2022 fiscal year each will be more than $75.5 million. The General Fund provides money for the county’s day-to-day operating expenses.
By law, the county must have a balanced budget.
In addition Tuesday, County Council unanimously approved the following:
• A resolution to end the state of emergency that was in place in the county because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
• A resolution to authorize the execution of an agreement with True Green Saver LLC that will involve the installation of a solar power system at the Carrol H. Warner Savannah River Research Campus that will result in estimated annual savings of $78,803 over 25 years for the county.
• The second reading of an ordinance that would provide incentives to an unidentified company for “Project Siamese,” which would involve the establishment of a manufacturing facility in the county and create 42 new full-time jobs. Included in the plans is the expenditure of approximately $4.7 million “in real and personal property,” according to the ordinance.