News Archive

Week of Apr. 2, 2003

Williamston audit shows $402,760 deficit for 2002
Fire, police chiefs explain vehicle purchases
Town updating software
WACC Founder’s Day features Holloway
WACC  Founders’ Day event planned for April 5
Palmetto High School plans alumni directory
GWBA plans egg hunt
Museum plans move forward
County Council deletes gun range regulations

Williamston audit shows $402,760 deficit for 2002

The Town of Williamston had a $402,760 deficit for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2002, according to information presented to Williamston Town  Council members during an   audit worksession held Monday.

 A draft copy of the 2002 audit was presented to Coucilmembers by representatives of the auditing firm Greene, Finney and Horton, LLP.

“The $402,000 deficit is due to the fact that you took in $402,000 less than what you spent as of Dec. 31, 2002,” auditor Larry Finney said.

Finney said the town actually spent $377,815 more than was budgeted for 2002. $304,000 of that amount was for capital outlays.

Finney and Mayor Phillip Clardy stated that the size of the deficit is partially the result of changes in the town’s financial practices and deficits that have accumulated over a number of years.

 They also said that two items make up most of that capital outlay amount, $115,000  for fire vehicles refinanced and $189,485 for a lease purchase of police vehicles resulting in a $73,300 unfavorable balance.

According to the auditors, for accounting purposes, the deficit includes loans, debt carried over and any additional expenses. The police and fire vehicle purchase agreements made in 2002 are included in the fiqures even though the cash is not actually paid out during 2002.

They are factors in the deficit in terms of fund balance, according to the auditors.

Finney also said the town did not  budget for the debt service so the amounts had to taken out of the general fund balance.

The deficit figure may not be as bad as it looks officials said, because of the way transactions are recorded in the financial statement.

“We budgeted $2,258,436 for 2002. We actually spent $2,644,104. But of the $385,000 difference, included are the full lease amounts for the police vehicles and the fire truck which were recorded as expenditures for 2002, though they will be paid out annually until the lease payment time expires,” Mayor Clardy said.

Clardy said that excluding the fire and police vehicle purchases, he expects the audit to show that the town is approximatley $81,000 over budget when the final draft is  presented to Council next week. According to Clardy, payments on the two items were budgeted for 2002 and will be included in the budget for 2003 he said.

To cover expenditures during 2002, the town borrowed $150,000 on a tax anticipation note last October. The rest was covered by a fund balance transfer of $179,000, leaving a  $73,300 cash shortage according to information presented during the work session.

According to the accountants, the Town was $240,000 over budget for 2002. “The budget is nothing more than a planning tool for town council and town management,” Finney said.

Clardy admitted that the budget is a work in progress with adjustments periodically being made and has stated that it may take another year or two to get the line item amounts in the budget fine tuned.

Finney said he had two concerns with the 2003 budget; cutting costs and addressing problems with the town’s financial software system.

He said town officials were not getting accurate information on the finances of the town due to problems with the town’s accounting software.

“You need to get accurate and complete financial information on a regular basis,” Finney said.

Clardy said he is already addressing the concerns by taking steps to cut expenses and looking at new accounting software and computer.

He also said he will not have to cut the 2003 budget approved by Council in December.

“We have already made some changes,” Clardy said.

Clardy said all town department heads have been notified to cut down on overtime and he has gone through the budget item by item.

To help with town expenditures, staff members who have left have not been replaced. This includes three police officers, two in public works and street department head retirement, according to Clardy.

The town is also currently in the process of replacing the accounting software with Peachtree accounting software, according to town treasurer Michelle Starnes.

Problems with the current program began to show up when the DOS based program was upgraded to Windows, causing faulty information to be output by the software program, according to Starnes.

Councilman Wade Pepper said he expected a deficit for the town, but did not realize it was so large.

During a budget work session in October 2002,  Pepper stated that there were inconsistencies with the monthly figures he was given, which Clardy said was the result of the software problems.

Pepper also said he thought the town was on track to experience a large budget deficit.

However, Pepper’s explanation of the reasons for the deficit differed from those given by  the accountant and mayor during the worksession.

Pepper said he thought a big part of the deficit appeared to be the result of additional staff that had been hired and administrative expenditures which ran over the 2002 budget approved by Council.

Williamston Police Chief Richard Turner said he didn’t agree with the deficit being blamed on vehicle leases and overtime in his department.

Turner said the vehicle lease included purchasing six new vehicles with a $42,000 down payment and the balance to be paid in lump sum payments each year over a three year period.

The lease program was suggested as a way for the town to get six new vehicles instead of the two replacement vehicles  budgeted annually for his department. The cost was approximately the same, Turner said.

Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison also said his department shouldn’t be blamed for the town’s deficit.

The all volunteer department operated within the 2002 budget, according to Ellison and the payment for the new fire truck, which was refinanced in with a balance owed on another vehicle, stayed almost the same.

“We should not be blamed for something we had nothing to do with,” Ellsion said. “We cut our budget so that we could do that.”

Mayor Clardy said that no one department was being blamed for the deficit for 2002.

Finney said that when you refinance a lease, you have to show the entire amount as revenue and expense and that it would not affect the final deficit balance.

Finney did say that some of the town’s deficits were carried over from earlier years.

“There were expenses going between the general fund and the utility fund,” he said. “We will keep them separate and see how they come out.”

Finney said that he has two concerns with the town’s general fund and utility fund.

“You should only spend what you bring in,” Finney said about the general fund. He also pointed out that there should be funds set aside in reserve in the utility fund to replace aging lines and for maintenance.

“The whole amount would be tough to do. If it had been happening over the last 10 to 15 years it wouldn’t be a problem,” Finney said.

Clardy said that keeping the funds separate will put the general fund in a different light.

“We are trying to eat some of the deficits that have been carried,” Clardy said.

Clardy said his goal is to take the budget and have it show what it actually costs to do the town’s business and place appropriate revenues where they are supposed to go.

“Now we are here. We should bite the bullet and see where we are going,” Clardy said.

Councilman Greg Cole said he was surprised at the amount of the deficit.

 “We have to cut expenses to meet revenue,”  Councilman Cecil Cothran said. 

The town’s annual audit and 2003 budget adjustments will be presented to Councilmembers in public at the April 7 meeting of Council.

Fire, police chiefs explain vehicle purchases

Willimston Police Chief Richard Turner said his request to purchase police vehicles on a lease program was approved by the Mayor and Council in 2002 and that payments for the lease were included in the 2002 budget.

The comments came in response to information presented to Williamston officials Monday during a work session stating the town had a $402,760 deficit for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2002. $304,000 of that amount was for capital outlays.

The auditors and Mayor Phillip Clardy said that two items make up most of that capital outlay amount, $115,000  for fire vehicles refinanced and $189,485 for a lease purchase of police vehicles.

Regardless of how the accounting adds up, Chief Turner and Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison said they want the public to know that payments for vehicles in each of their departments was approved by Council and included in the 2003 budget.

Turner said the vehicle lease for his department included purchasing six new vehicles with a down payment and  the balance paid by lump sum payments of $47,371 each year over a three year period.

The lease program was suggested as a way for the town to get six new vehicles instead of the two replacement vehicles  budgeted annually for his department, for approximately the same cost, according to Turner.

During the audit worksession, officials said overtime within the town’s departments was also contributing to the problem and Mayor Clardy stated that he was addressing the situation by cutting overtime in all departments.

Turner said his department recently received a notice from the Mayor instructing overtime to be restricted and requesting officers to schedule court dates for days they will be working.

Turner said the town memo indicated that there was a hiring freeze, in effect and instructed his department to cut all overtime, schedule court dates so that they fall on days when the officer is already working, approve all overtime and to accommodate overtime with 1.5 hours scheduled comp time with a 30 day period to request the time off.

Police department policy prior to the March notice was to have officers available for court, which is held on Tuesday afternoons, on their day off.

Turner also pointed out that the victims’ advocate salary is paid out of his department with half from the victims advocate escrow account and half from the town’s account.

According to Turner,  his department is currently understaffed by three officers.

One officer was not replaced when he left last year and two officers have left this year, seeking higher paying jobs, he said.

The office normally operates on a full staff of 21 and is down to 18 officers, resulting in a tight schedule for patrolling, according to Chief Turner.

A patrol shift usually includes a supervisor and two officers on patrol, he said.

Turner also pointed out that much of the overtime associated with his department is the result of activities sponsored by the Town including the July 4th fireworks celebration, September 11 memorial service, West Allen Williams burial, Spring Water Festival and the Christmas parade.

Turner said the new court schedule results in a 12 day period for court appearances instead of ten days, due to officers rotating shifts.

“It has put a squeeze on us,” Turner said.

Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison also said his department shouldn’t be blamed for the town’s deficit discussed in a town worksession this week.

The all volunteer department operated within the 2002 budget, according to Ellison and the payment for the new fire truck, was refinanced in with a balance owed on another vehicle.

Ellison said that he asked Town Council last year to refinance a vehicle at a lower interest rate and to borrow enough money to purchase a new truck.

The agreement kept the payment almost the same, according to Ellison, adding only $1,700 to the yearly payment that was already budgeted and being made.

“We should not be blamed for something we had nothing to do with,” Ellison said. “We cut our budget so that we could do that.”

Under Ellison’s reign as Chief, the department has achieved a Class 4  ISO rating which helps lower insurance premiums for homes and businesses in the town.

Ellison has also upgraded training and firefighting equipment for the all volunteer department.

Town updating software

The Town of Williamston is updating accounting software to get better financial reporting for the Council and Mayor officials said this week.

Due to problems associated with two different software accounting programs, town officials have decided to purchase a new Peachtree accounting software program which will be used for accounting activities including payroll, accounts payable and general ledger,  according to treasurer Michelle Starnes.

The town switched from the Ram Soft software, which had been used prior to 1999,  to the Smith Data program which was used for all accounting and billing until the fall of 2001. Due to problems with that program, the town switched back to the Ram Soft system, which is currently in use, Starnes said.

Problems in the Ram Soft program surfaced when the DOS based program was upgraded to Windows causing faulty information to be output by the software program, according to Starnes.

The Ram Soft software will continue to be used for business licenses, utility billing and tax billing.

WACC Founder’s Day features Holloway

Singer Loretta Holloway will be a special guest at the Founders’ Day Celebration Banquet at the Caroline Community Center on April 5 at 7 p.m.

Reviewers from coast to coast are quick to point out that Holloway has a captivating charm and excitement that instantly draws the audience into her musical performance. Gregg Hunter of Drama-Logue proclaims her a “one woman spectacular.”

Growing up in Belton, Holloway had planned to be an English teacher. She found her naturally gifted voice as a means to finance her education at Claflin College. She performed at night to help pay her tuition and was genuinely surprised by the overwhelming response to her singing.

Finding herself more at home on stage than in the classroom, she headed for Chicago. It didn’t take long for music lovers in Chicago to realize her talent. Buck Walmsley, Chicago’s leading jazz critic, called her “the best jazz singer in the city.”Variety referred to her as “the little lady with the big voice.”

Boosted by such reviews, Holloway moved to the West Coast. Within a short time after her arrival, she was hired to sing the theme song for the movie Blackjack.

Since then, Holloway has shared stages and billing with such stars as Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, Garry Shandling, Don Rickles, and Jay Leno. She even provided a royal command performance for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Australia.

Holloway has starred in several off-Broadway productions. Her movie credits include Pure County, Elvis and Me, and Indecent Proposal. She has also appeared in a Miller Genuine Draft commercial.

Holloway’s debut CD was recently released. A compilation of 17 songs, the CD is entitled Loretta Holloway&ldots;Quietly.

WACC  Founders’ Day event planned for April 5

The Williamston Action Community Club (WACC) will hold a Founders’ Day Celebration Banquet on April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Caroline Community Center.

The banquet is the club’s major fundraising event and also represents the conclusion of a major fundraising program to support the center and its activities.

Luther Johnson, Jr., will act as master of ceremonies for the event. Well-known singer Loretta Holloway will be a special guest. Attorney Fletcher N. Smith, Jr., a representative in the South Carolina House of Representatives, will be the featured speaker. A donation of $15 per person is requested.

Presently, the Caroline Community Center is operated using dues and donations, building use fees, programs sponsored by club members and the Founders’ Day Rally. No funds are received from United Way or any special grants according to club members.

Located at 1 School Street, the center operates a Summer Enrichment Program each summer for youth ages 5-14. Plans include expanding to a year-round after-school and summer program according to a spokesperson.

The WACC is in the process of upgrading and repairing the center including installing replacement windows. However, more funds are needed to complete the project according to club members.

The club is requesting that friends, business owners and corporations consider becoming patrons or sponsors in order to continue the work at the center.

A donor may become a Silver Patron by contributing $100-$500. The name of the donor will be placed on a list of patrons in the center.

Gold Patrons contribute $500-$1000 and will have their names placed on a patron list in the center. They will also receive a certificate and a reserved table for six at the Founders’ Day Banquet.

Full Sponsors contribute $1000 or more. The name of the individual or business will be placed on a sponsor plaque in the center as well as on a personal plaque. Full sponsors receive a reserved table for six at the Founders Day Banquet as well as a listing on the program as a sponsor.

All donations and commitments are needed no later than April 5. The WACC is an incorporated tax-exempt organization and emphasizes that all funds will be used for the center and to finance the Youth Enrichment Program. For further information, contact Walt Smith at 847-7929 or Theodore Mattison at 847-8685.

Palmetto High School plans alumni directory

Palmetto High School recently announced that it has contracted with Harris Publications to publish a Palmetto High School Alumni Directory. When completed, the directory will contain information on approximately 6,325 graduates of Palmetto since 1953.

School officials will furnish the company the last contact information that is on record for each graduate. Harris will then begin the task of contacting each graduate, compiling the information and publishing the directory.

Palmetto graduates should receive the first information request cards from the company sometime after March 28. Identifying themselves as Harris Graduate Connections, representatives of the company will follow up with phone calls to verify all information submitted.

The company will gather and verify information for a 17-week period before beginning to print the publication. Palmetto graduates who do not receive a card may call 1-800-546-3318 to give their information to the company over the phone.

Palmetto alumni are under no obligation to purchase a directory but are encouraged to furnish information so that the directory can be as complete as possible. A regular edition directory will cost $69.99, and deluxe editions will cost $79.99 plus tax and shipping charges. Each edition will contain the same information with the deluxe edition having a slightly higher quality cover.

The school will receive a portion of the sales after a minimum of 10% of graduates place orders. All orders must be placed prior to printing in order to guarantee receiving a directory. Harris Publishing has stated that after all orders are taken and the books have been printed that no other orders will be processed. Purchases may be made with check, credit or debit card.

GWBA plans egg hunt

The Greater Williamston Business Association will sponsor its annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday April 12. In case of rain, the hunt will be rescheduled to April 19.

The event will be held at the Springwater Park for ages 10 and under. 

Ages and time schedules are as follows: under three - 9:30 a.m., ages four and five - 10 a.m., ages six and seven - 10:30 a.m., and ages eight to ten 11 a.m.

 Drawings for prizes and grand prizes will be held for each age group.At the conclusion of the last hunt, a drawing for a playhouse compliments of the Career and Technology Center will be held.

Museum plans move forward

The Williamston Museum Committee has begun a search for information on potential objects for display at the museum as well as making specific requests about aspects of the building renovation for the former town hall.

Persons having items of significant historic interest who would be willing to donate or lend those items to the museum are asked to pick up an information sheet at the Williamston Municipal Center. The committee would like a description of the historical significance of the object, an approximate date for the object, and an approximate monetary value for the object. Museum Committee Chairman Charles Blakely may be contacted at 947-4103 with questions or comments that anyone may have.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said a number of items have already been donated including a radio, a Bible, photographs, and a wheelchair. Others have expressed an interest in making donations, he added.

The goal of the committee is to restore the former town hall as closely as possible to its original construction while still providing protection for displays. Some members of the committee visited area museums to develop ideas on interior design and displays.

The committee met March 20 and made the following requests: restore the plaster walls, keep wiring and outlets as inconspicuous as possible, use tile flooring to maintain the original style of construction, use track lighting to spotlight displays, restore the tin ceiling, use UV-protected windows, and install a security system.

The mayor welcomed these requests and said, “This is a major step closer to knowing what we want.” He added that town employees have about one more day of work to remove duct work so that the building will be completely gutted.

The town received a check for $50,000 from the S. C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to fund the museum project in 2001. After paying $1,250 to Trehel Construction for preliminary plans and estimates, $48,750 remains of those funds.

Trehel estimated a cost of $68,000 to complete the project. According to Clardy, the town has saved money by having town employees do extensive work in gutting the building. Clardy anticipates that the remaining funds will be enough to pay for the project.

County Council deletes gun range regulations

Anderson County Council voted unanimously to delete the section of the Land Use and Development Standards dealing with gun ranges after almost 20 advocates and adversaries addressed the council on the issue at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

Iva resident R. T. Moore who operates a gun range said the current regulations would put him “out of business” and encouraged the council to recognize the diversity of the sport and tailor regulations accordingly. Moore presented a set of recommended revisions and distributed a copy to each council member.

Residents of a community in Piedmont on the Saluda River reported numerous problems with a neighboring shooting facility and requested that regulations be implemented. Community resident Wanda Williams stated that the problem is that “there are no regulations.”

Several other residents reported a decrease in property value, an inability to use the river and their property for recreation, and hearing shooting past midnight on many nights. Young mother Celestra Childers said she felt “surrounded by gunfire.”

Council member Larry Greer who also teaches hunter education classes said he had some “serious concerns about the content of the ordinance.” Greer proposed an amendment to delete the definition of a gun range from section 38-37 and to delete section 38-178 dealing with gun ranges entirely. Council member Gracie Floyd added an amendment that the issue would be brought back later after study by a committee. Both amendments were approved unanimously.

Council member Clint Wright reminded everyone that the decision “creates an obligation to get involved” since the issue will be returning to council.

Several EMS employees addressed the council about an EMS system run by the county. Michael James said that a system run by the county would better coordinate services among the eight separate services that now exist. Gregory Sears expressed concerns about a lack of benefits and retirement plans for EMS personnel.

County Attorney Tom Martin reported that there were eight bids on the county’s lease purchase agreement. All eight bids were under 5% according to Martin who referenced the county’s AA credit rating as a contributing factor to the bid activity. Wachovia Bank was low bidder at 1.94%.

Council member Cindy Wilson recognized Anderson County native Anna Hanks for representing South Carolina in the “Miss USA” pageant and for advancing to a group of ten finalists.