By Stan Welch – For the first time in recent memory, Anderson County taxpayers will actually see a small reduction in their taxes. That news culminated a report on the county’s progress that Chairman Tom Allen presented at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The report started by reminding the audience that the County has faced increasingly tough budget challenges since 2009, when the state first cut back on the aid to subdivisions, or the revenues returned to various governmental entities from the state revenues.
Since 2009, those revenues have shrunk by 37 per cent overall, or $3.5 million, and by 27 per cent, or $2.4 million, to the County specifically. In response, the percentage of the general fund budget provided by those revenues has shrunk from 20.5% to 10% in the current budget.
Despite that, said Allen, the County has responded well, avoiding a reduction in services; avoiding a raise in taxes; maintaining the County’s credit rating; and maintaining the proper levels of funding in the reserve account.
Allen also touted the County’s successful efforts in attracting industry to the area, pointing out that in early 2010, unemployment in the county was at 13.7%, according to state and federal sources. At that time, there were 11,600 unemployed in Anderson County. Since January 2012, that rate has held steady around 9%, with 7000 unemployed.
The report also mentioned that so far in 2012 six major economic development announcements have been made. The industries expanding or locating in Anderson county will account for 520 new jobs, and almost $600 million in capital investment. The combined payrolls of those companies will total just under $19 million a year, and add approximately $2.8 million in fees and taxes.
Based on commonly accepted formulas, those jobs can be expected to result in the creation of an additional 1100 jobs. Allen added that since January of 2009, when the makeup of the County Council drastically changed, Anderson County has announced capital investments of $1.7 billion with 1700 jobs associated with those investments.
According to statistics maintained by the Upstate Alliance organization, Anderson County is number one per capita in the nation when it comes to attracting international investment. The County has attracted more than 200 major manufacturers and 20 international companies.
As reinforcement of the County’s commitment to economic development, the Council approved several ordinances authorizing incentive packages for pending projects as well.
Allen explained that the half mill tax cut reflected the paying off of a bond issued by the County previously. That cessation of the debt marked the first time in over a decade that a bond was allowed to expire, instead of being rolled over into a new project.
In other business, officials of The American Red Cross appeared before Council to seek funding to replace revenues lost when traditional donors reduced their contributions. Kathleen Bennett, chairperson of the Anderson County Red Cross advisory board, told the Council that the local Red Cross served 227 citizens during a total of 69 disasters last year.
“People think of the Red Cross in terms of major disasters like a Katrina or Hurricane Isaac, but we are also there light years ahead of FEMA, And when a family is standing suddenly homeless because of a house fire, we are there to find them shelter. We are asking for help from the county, but I would say to this Council that to have the county do what we do would cost far more than we are asking.”
Councilman Francis Crowder, citing a personal experience many years ago, pledged five thousand of the twenty thousand asked for, Also donating funds from their individual recreational funds were Council members Tom Allen, Cindy Wilson and Eddie Moore, bringing the total to $9000. The remaining members delayed their donations until they could verify the amounts remaining in their accounts.