City of Charleston working to balance 2021 budget despite $18M deficit

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The City of Charleston Ad Hoc Budget Committee on Thursday met to discuss balancing the 2021 budget amid an $18 million deficit.

The City blames the federal government in part, as “coronavirus-related budget assistance to cities or counties of fewer than 500,000 people” has not been available.

Due to the lack of funding, the City fears “draconian cuts” to critical services like police and fire departments will be necessary:

“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.

To avoid defunding vital services, the City is discussing a “50/50 plan, which would balance the budget with $9 million in additional cuts and $9 million in new revenues.”

The new revenues would come from “a combination of three property mills and a 50%
reduction in the Local Option Sales Tax credit,” which would amount to roughly $1.50 per week for a $300,000 home.

If the committee is able to agree on a final balanced budget Thursday, the budget will be presented at a full City Council budget workshop on November 18, then to the Ways and Means Committee and full City Council on December 1.

The City of Charleston is not unfamiliar with balancing budget deficits. In 2020, the City was able to balance a $42 million shortfall and maintain Charleston’s AAA credit rating.

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