Kernell: extra $380,000 due to controlled expenses
AUGUST 26, 2010 10:31 a.m. (0)
Greenville County’s $380,000 budget surplus for the last fiscal year has its roots in conservative business practices and maximizing available resources, county officials have said.
The fact that Greenville has the largest population of any county in the state but ranks 43rd out of 46 counties in the number of employees per 1,000 residents is illustrative, said Joe Kernell, Greenville County administrator.
“We’ve been able to control the things that we can control, chiefly expenses,” he said. “And have been able to maintain our levels of service to residents even though our revenue has dropped sharply.”
In 2008, Kernell said, Greenville County got $22 million in state money from aid to subdivisions. In the last fiscal year that number fell to $17.4 million and is expected to drop to $14 million in the coming fiscal year.
The county does not anticipate having to lay off workers despite the decrease in state revenue, Kernell said. So far the county has delayed replacing workers who leave the county for 60 to 90 days and has realized a considerable savings on salaries that way.
“We could reach a point where we’ve stretched things as far as we can and then we’d have to consider other options,” he said. “But that would be up to council.”
The lingering effects of the recession are reflected in flat revenue figures for things like building permits.
In July of 2006 the county issued 260 permits. That number fell in 2007 to 207 and nosedived in 2008 to 99. In July of 2009 74 permits were issued and this year 73 went out.
“Council sets priorities for us and we strive to meet those goals,” Kernell said. “We don’t go out and spend money just because we can. We’ve been able to actually hire new deputies and replace aging patrol cars this year.”
The county has not replaced 51 aging vehicles in its fleet that are not involved in public safety work. There are 17 pieces of heavy equipment that the county will not replace in various departments.
The county is coping by sharing things like backhoes and dump trucks between departments.
“They are not the kind of equipment that gets used on a daily basis,” Kernell said, “So sharing works.”
There have been new hires with Emergency Medical Services, but that agency largely pays for itself through fees.
“One of the best things we ever did was going to an outside agency for our EMS fee collections,” Kernell said. “We’ve learned there are some things we’re quite good at and other things we’re not.”
In 2004 EMS fee revenue was $4 million. That number increased in the last fiscal year to $10.4 million. “We’re not where we need to be on EMS yet,” Kernell said. “But we’re headed in the right direction.”
There is no overtime for county employees and training budgets have been slashed to the bone.
“We’ve brought trainers here when necessary to instruct employees,” Kernell said. “And we continue to do sessions that are necessary to maintain certifications.”
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