Charleston works to close $18M shortfall for 2021

Charleston works to close $18M shortfall for 2021
A Charleston budget committee is meeting Thursday to consider options to balance the city’s budget against an $18 million shortfall. (Source: Live 5 News)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Charleston budget committee is meeting Thursday to consider options to balance the city’s budget against an $18 million shortfall.

This shortfall projected for next year comes on top of the $42 million shortfall the city managed in 2020, ending the year with a reaffirmation of Charleston’s AAA credit rating by both major ratings agencies, city spokesman Jack O’Toole said.

O’Toole said that since lawmakers in Washington has not provided coronavirus-related budget assistance to cities or counties of fewer than 500,000 people, only Greenville County, with a populartion of just more than 500,000, qualified for federal assistance.

The Charleston Ad Hoc Budget Committee faces a challenge in deciding between raising taxes and cutting jobs.

“In order to balance the city’s 2021 budget with no new taxes, Charleston would have to make cuts equaling layoffs for 40 police officers, 31 firefighters, 23 recreation department employees, 13 sanitation and streets workers, as well as equally deep personnel cuts across the rest of city government,” O’Toole said. Those cuts would be in addition to 200 non-sworn city positions eliminated over the last decade, he said.

The committee is expected to consider a “50/50 plan,” which would balance the budget with $9 million in additional cuts and $9 million in new revenues O’Toole said would be used to avoid any defunding of “critical city services,” including police, fire and sanitation.

“The new revenues, a combination of three property mills and a 50% reduction in the Local Option Sales Tax credit, would amount to one dollar and fifty cents a week on an average $300,000 home,” he said.

The committee’s finalized budget will be presented to Charleston City Council at a budget workshop on Nov. 18 and will then go to the city’s Ways and Means Committee and full City Council for first reading on Dec. 1.

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