Laurens County residents who own and register cars and truck will pay $10 more in a fee to the county, in an effort to start tackling a $40 million dilemma.
The county assesses a $15 per registered vehicle fee now, and that money goes into a road-repair fund. Still, rural roads continue to deteriorate, due to exposure to rain and the elements, so County Public Works will invest $600,000 in equipment to combat the problem (along with about $200,000 each in materials and personnel). To get that money, the council is going up on the vehicles’ fee - but it expects to hold the line on property taxes for this fiscal year.
The new fee will be $25 per registered vehicle.
The county has been experiencing a $2 million annual windfall from continuing residential development in Northern Laurens County, the spill-over from fast-growing Simpsonville, enabling it to survive without a tax increase.
Council Members Jeff Carroll, Garrett McDaniel, Diane Anderson and Kemp Younts voted “yes” to the fee increase.
Council Chairman Dr. David Pitts, Vice-chairman Joe Wood, and member Brown Patterson voted “no” - Pitts said the fee increase gave him “consternation” with so many people filing for unemployment in the business slowdown caused by the Coronavirus threat.
Public Works Director Dale Satterfield said Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week are reasons why the roads’ fee must be increased - Laurens County is experiencing tropical storm-caused and low pressure-system-caused rains, and Satterfield said that water is killing the rural roads. Part of the work will be cracks-sealing so water runs off, instead of settling in - the $40 Million repair project does not include bridges.
Council made the decision during a Tuesday “work session” to continue studying the FY 20-21 budget - council has approved about $1 Million in additional spending for next year over this year, and employees will get a 1.8% raise. Part of the $1 Million extra spending is about a quarter-million more for the Johnson Detention Center (to meet contracts) and about $111,000 more for the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (1 additional road deputy). Sheriff Don Reynolds has told county administration his office needs about $1 Million more in personnel spending to meet law enforcement service demands.
Council also approved $100,000 to place Laurens County signs at Exit 19, I-385, and at Exit 60, I-26. Wood voted “no”. Council agreed to continue giving 1 mil of tax to Higher Education - 90% for Piedmont Tech and 10% for USC-Union at Laurens. The USC campus asked for $45,300 (instead of the current $20,000) and PTC asked for $750,000 (instead of the current $186,000), but there was no motion to fulfill those requests. “This is not a time we can give more,” Anderson said.
Council will discuss personnel requests May 26 and capital requests June 2. Final approval of the $24 Million FY 20-21 Laurens County Budget is expected for June 23.