I would like to respond to some of the comments made by the speakers at the NAACP press conference in Georgetown on May 31. First and foremost, I want the record to be clear that no one from that group has made a single inquiry to the County’s Finance Department, requested to review any financial information, or most importantly, to seek explanation or clarification of any financial information in their possession that is of concern. As the County’s Finance Director, I take great exception to unfounded public accusations of non-accountability on the County’s part. The County is very fortunate to have an excellent group of Finance employees who work hard every day to ensure that our records are complete, accurate and serve as a base for financial reporting that is easily audited.
Statements were made at the press conference that there is a distorted picture of where money is coming from and where it is going. There are literally thousands of general ledger accounts utilized in our accounting system to account for sources of revenue and expenditures. A simple review of the County’s budget document and financial statements, even by those not accustomed to such, will provide an understanding of where the money comes from and goes to on both a summarized and detailed basis. Budget documents and financial statements are provided online at the County’s website (www.gtcounty.org), along with an interactive reporting tool which allows the users freedom to view information of particular interest to them.
It was suggested at the press conference that 95 percent of the County’s budget is accounted for by salaries. It was further suggested that we must be paying for operations with Capital Projects Sales Tax funds. Apparently someone has circulated in social media a schedule of selected information put out by the South Carolina Association of Counties that shows the total dollar amount of the County’s salaries and also shows the County’s General Fund total budget. The General Fund is only one of many accounting funds of the County in which salaries are paid, yet someone jumped to a conclusion and divided the total salaries of all funds by the budget of just the General Fund and erroneously concluded that 95% of our budget is for salaries. To correct the record, salaries (regular time, part-time and over-time) account for 38% of the budget dollars for all funds having personnel costs in the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget. The real travesty is that the leader of the local NAACP would, without asking County officials for an explanation, make public statements suggesting that the County is misallocating Capital Projects Sales Tax funds, which is a very serious charge.
Comments were made at the press conference about pay raises for the Parks and Recreation Director and County Administrator as if the raises were excessive, unusual or unauthorized. The fact of the matter is they only received the same cost of living adjustments that all County employees received each and every year that an adjustment was approved by County Council. Regarding the comment that the Administrator had not had an evaluation, the County has not been in a financial position to give merit based pay increases for over 10 years, so pay increases are not linked to evaluations, but I assure you that the Administrator, and all employees, are evaluated constantly.
It was also said repeatedly that the budget document was provided to Council on May 28, the day of Council’s second reading of the budget. In fact the proposed budget was delivered to Council members on the Friday prior to the Council meeting, with the exception of one member who could not be reached until Tuesday after the Monday holiday.
Clearly, a number of irresponsible comments were made at the NAACP press conference which impugn the integrity of County Council, the County Administrator, the Finance Director, and County staff. Prior to becoming the City of Georgetown’s Finance Director in 1995 and Georgetown County’s Finance Director in 2004, I was in public practice as a CPA for 10 years specializing in governmental accounting and participated in or managed in excess of 40 local government audits. I can say with confidence that the County conducts its financial affairs with integrity and is fully accountable in its reporting to the citizens. I can also tell you that the County is very fortunate to have had Sel Hemingway as its Administrator for the last eleven years.
Georgetown County Finance Director