Pee Dee officials take bleak state budget head on

Darlington County, SC - By Alisha Laventure - bio | email

DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – South Carolina's budget for the next fiscal year means city, county and school board officials will have to do more with less money.

South Carolina has a $20 billion budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. This was the figure given in a budget outlook report by a South Carolina State Finance Committee Representative Michael Shealy on Monday evening.

Shealy said city and county governments will have to wean themselves off of a dependency on federal stimulus money if struggling local public organizations will persist in the current economy.

"Federal resources, I believe, will diminish as the federal government begins to address those deficits and debt issues," Shealy said.

"We're going to have to look at reducing the services to the taxpayers of Darlington County," said Darlington County Councilman Wesley Blackwell.

He said this is an unfavorable last resort, but is the reality given the state's financial situation.

"I think people are beginning to understand that the government isn't going to be able to do all these things for them," Blackwell added.

Shealy's report showed state revenues have dropped by 25 percent in the past three years. This has caused debilitating cuts to public programs that have brought them to what Shealy calls a "threshold level."

"We can't cut anymore department of corrections. We can cut anymore juvenile justice," Shealy insisted. These departments, along with dozens of other organizations have quickly run out of resources and are nearing the brink of collapse.

"Not only has this recession been deeper, but it also has lasted longer in duration," Shealy said. He says this further explains the federal government's inability to subsidize local public organizations.

Fortunately, the government has certain "open-ended obligations" built into state budgets. The LIFE Scholarship Program and other fellowship awards are some of the expenses the government will always be fund despite the amount originally budgeted by the federal government.

Shealy said school boards and local governments will have to make do with limited resources as the economy slowly recovers.

"I believe we can do it," Blackwell said. "The American people and the people in Darlington county are certainly resilient and can do those sort of things."

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