Is Charleston County Spending Its Budget Properly?

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By Mark A. Leon

The approved fiscal 2017 Charleston County Budget Narrative is 483 pages.? Not an easy mass of context, graphs and images for the average person to swallow.? Perhaps that is why the allocation of spending has been overlooked and areas that need critical assistance are being grossly underfunded.? As citizens, we have an obligation to be informed, thus we are able to make the proper decisions and have the right conversations with our elected officials to ensure our children’s education, healthcare, infrastructure and common well being are funded properly.

Summary of General Funding

Expenditures and other uses for all operating funds total nearly $480.0 million for FY 2017, a $4.0 million increase from the previous year.

The largest increases in the General Fund represent an additional $3.4 million in EMS and $1.7 million in the Sheriff’s Office due to the annualization of costs related to the public safety expansion in FY 2016. The second significant increase in the General Fund is an additional $3.3 million in Facilities Management which represents the transfer of annual recurring maintenance related to roofing, heating/cooling, and paving from the Capital Projects Fund (not included in the annual operating budget) to the General Fund. The third most significant increase is in the Special Revenue Fund. The newly enhanced Public Works: Stormwater Drainage program resulted in a $2.1 million increase.
Here are a few simple understandings about where our tax money is spend and where it is generated.
  • The total spent on Economic Development, Education and Health / Welfare is 26.6 Million.? All three combined is 6.9 Million less than Culture and Recreation spending (26% more)
  • General Government funding is higher than economic development, education, culture/recreation, health/welfare, public works and judicial combined 131.6M vs. 123.3M
  • 0.033% of the 2017 fiscal budget is spent on Health/Welfare in the county that has the largest health system in the state.
  • 393.5 Million or 82% of our intake funding comes from property taxes, sales tax and fees.
  • Only 15.8 million more is taken in by sales tax than property tax (146M vs 130.2M),? Yet, the average home price in Charleston County has gone from 150K to 252K (2000 – 2017).
  • US News and Worlds Report ranks South Carolina last (50 out of 50) in education, yet Charleston County sets 6.6M (0.014%) on Educational spending.

This generates a level of concern that needs addressing.? Charleston County is home to the largest healthcare system in the state of South Carolina and currently the state ranks in the lower quarter of Opioid related hospitalizations and fatalities, yet we utilize 0.033% of our annual budget (16.1M) toward health and welfare.? With an education system that is overcrowded and the quality of education so poor, why only 0.014% (6.6M) being allotted for educational spending?? In the state of South Carolina, only 40% of residents have a completed four year degree yet we are bringing in quality jobs from Boeing, Volvo, BMW, BenefitFocus and more.

With the rise of crime in the Lowcountry, one could account for 101.3M or 21% going toward public safety, yet this accounts for almost double the spending on set aside for public works.? When we are desperately in need of infrastructure and road improvements while hotels are going up as fast as a child with a box of Legos, does that make sense?

Economic development is 3.9M (0.008%) which is not enough to fund job training programs, career counseling and quality job creation in technology, design, management and business.

We invite you to review the narrative and begin to have those important discussions.? Given that Charleston has recently been deemed one of the most fiscally sound cities in the United States, it seems priorities are still a little mixed up on how our money is spent and it is time to let yourself be heard.

Appendix – Graphs / Charts

Where is the funding coming from?