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County lifts spending freeze

Commissioners lifted the government spending freeze imposed this winter, now that tax coffers are filling up.

Friday, April 27, 2001

Commissioners lifted the government spending freeze imposed this winter, now that tax coffers are filling up.

"We’re lifting the spending freeze, but with caution," commission president Paul Herrell said Thursday.

A small carryover balance at the beginning of the year and tax revenues that were not coming into the county at the same rate as money being spent led to the Feb. 15 spending freeze. The action kept the county from falling short of funds, officials said.

Now, with the first half of tax collections in, the money situation has changed.

"It doesn’t look as bad as it did," Herrell said, but added that it’s not great.

Commissioners agreed that county officeholders should remain cautious about spending. And they issued letters to each asking that expenditures still be limited to necessary items.

"And the freeze can be reinstated," Herrell said.

Also Thursday, commissioners set the stage for tax abatement negotiations with Duke Energy, one of the companies interested in Hamilton Township land for a natural gas fired power plant.

The commission met in closed executive session with Hamilton Township trustees, Rock Hill School District officials, county school officials, Collins Career Center representatives, the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and attorneys to discuss the situation.

No proposals are on the table, however, Duke is expected to ask for a break on property taxes.

Those taxes generate revenue shared by local governments, with the majority going to school systems.

"We’re trying to give them (Duke) a package that would allow them to locate in the county and make it beneficial to every entity concerned," commissioner George Patterson said.

Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, who represents the county for Enterprise Zone tax abatements, said negotiations will follow.

Once a tax abatement proposal is negotiated, endorsements must be sought from all government entities – such as the school district – then the county enters into the contract as the taxing authority, Kline said.

The state must issue final approval.

There were no conclusions reached after Thursday’s meeting, Rock Hill superintendent Lloyd Evans said.

"There was an agreement with all government entities present to pursue negotiations with Duke," Evans said.

Schools are concerned with how the tax abatements will be done, not on amounts of money, county superintendent Harold Shafer said.

"We’re trying to get everything organized beforehand," Shafer said.

Commissioners said future tax abatements – such as that for Calpine Inc., the company that first declared interest in township land for a power plant – likely will follow the same negotiation patterns being considered now.