Horry Co. Council considers 1% salary reduction for employees

Little River, SC - LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) - Horry County is looking at ways to trim its budget, and that may include salary reductions and program cuts.

The Horry County Council spent Thursday and Friday in Little River to nail down how the county will spend money in 2010. Council members looked at staff recommendations of where to cut, and one of those recommendations was a1 percent salary cut for all employees.

Horry County Councilman Howard Barnard says these salary talks are very preliminary.

"I don't know that we necessarily will go there or have to do that," Barnard said. "I know I would say probably a great number of the council that's here would be opposed to that."

Some councilmembers say they want to move money around so no salaries are impacted, others like Councilman James Frazier says even with these cuts, at least they aren't sending anyone home without jobs.

"We can keep our employees, that's what I'm looking at. 1 percent hurts all of us, but if you've got a job right now, the way the economy is, then that's the right thing to do." explained Frazier.

The salary slashes would affect nearly 1,700 county employees, and would average out to between $6-$15 stripped away from each paycheck.

Barnard says salary adjustments are always a difficult decision, "but I would think county employees would rather see a 1-percent cut as opposed to losing their job."

Barnard points out that while health care costs have risen, the county has not slighted any of their employees in receiving the same level of care. He says the council is also efforting to not raise county taxes.

Horry County Council members, along with county magistrates, are not able to have salary cuts under state law.

Early discussions also included stopping financial support for Coast RTA, which provides public transportation options for residents of Horry and Georgetown counties. Cutting that service would save the county $500,000 annually.

Council members said they expect a tight year for money, and may have to make some tough decisions on where to cut.

The budget session began with an overview, a financial update and forecast by county financial planners, and Horry County Interim Administrator John Weaver's balanced budget.

In addition to Coast RTA cuts, Weaver's budget also holds nearly 100 positions open through the county and doesn't purchase any major capital equipment.

Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier says the county is bringing in less money from a number of areas and that's why the cuts are necessary.

"With the economy like a business, we have the money not coming in like it's supposed to," Bourcier explained. "Again, one of our major contributors is building permits and since construction has slowed over the past couple of years, we feel that pinch with the revenues coming in."

She noted, however, that the council is not required to adopt Weaver's budget.

"Once he presents it to them, it's their budget," she said. "Again, they will massage it and decide what they believe are the priorities for next year."

Horry County must have a balanced budget passed by June 30.

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