Lexington County passes budget with bump for first responders, cuts funding requests for outside agencies

Lexington County passes budget with bump for first responders, cuts funding requests for outside age

LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - For the Lexington County Council, the Fiscal Year 2021 budget is about safety.

On June 23, the council passed its budget in a 7-2 vote. The budget includes approximately $5.7 million in more funding for first responders, broken up among law enforcement, fire services, and EMS.

The breakdown:

  • Law Enforcement: $51,561,039 ($2,273,467 increase)
  • Fire: $23,911,680 ($2,979,893 increase)
  • EMS: $17,594,225 ($464,444 increase)

Lexington County public information officer Harrison Cahill said the council is looking to have vital services keep pace with county growth.

“This budget is really going to reflect those changes, the council has been very forward-thinking when it comes to looking at the progress at the developed growth and managed growth of the county,” he said.

“We need our firefighters in good equipment. We need our law enforcement officers in good vehicles, with good contracts to provide for radio and that sort of thing. We need our EMS resources to receive the kind of equipment they need to go out and save lives.”

Cahill said a portion of the expanded funding was redistributed from outside agencies. The county funds various organizations as part of its budget after the organizations make an appropriation request.

The county did not fund the Riverbanks Zoo, Sexual Trauma Services, and the Nancy K Perry Children’s Shelter at their full requests.

The move saved the county $307,254, with $300,000 coming from the Zoo.

In 2020, Lexington County funded the zoo at $1.2 million, after a contentious budgeting session. The 2021 budget puts the zoo at $900,000.

RELATED STORY Ι Lexington County could reduce yearly funding to Riverbanks Zoo

Spokesperson Susan O’Cain said the loss in revenue will likely result in the end of “Free Friday’s” where county residents would go to the zoo for free.

She said currently the zoo has lost $5 million in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and has had to lay off 300 workers.

County Chairman Scott Whetstone said the council cares about the zoo, but the budget was about priorities.

"Some areas had to lose some funding, we worked with the zoo, they knew it was coming, we still feel the number we gave them was a sustainable amount," he said.

Whetstone said the COVID-19 pandemic did not impact the budget, and the county is not expecting a tax revenue shortfall.

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