Dillon County council to take legal action to get treasurer to honor $18 million budget

(WPDE file image)

Dillon County Administrator Rodney Berry said county council passed a resolution for a Writ of Mandamus Monday afternoon to ask a judge to hear a matter regarding the fact that the county treasurer is not willing to enforce and honor the county's $18 million budget.

Cornell University's Law School defines a Writ of Mandamus as an "order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion."

Treasurer Jamie Calhoun Estes filed a lawsuit last week saying the newly passed county budget is illegal.

The suit names Dillon County Administrator Rodney Berry, Dillon County Board of Education, and Northeastern Technical College.

Estes is asking the court for a declaratory judgement.

The filing says Estes believes the budget is illegal because “the public hearing conducted by Dillon County Council was not a 'Public Hearing' as required by statute in that the Public was not allowed to address issues being presented in the Budget Ordinance."

The lawsuit also alleges, “the budget ordinance as passed was different [from] the Budget Ordinance approved at Second Reading and there was no Motion to Amend the Ordinance presented for Second Reading. There was a motion to make one amendment to the budget presented for Third Reading but Plaintiff believes there were numerous changes to the Ordinance presented for Second Reading and there was no Motion to amend any of those changes.”

Many residents and school board members are upset because this year’s budget didn’t allot for about $600,000 in Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) the Dillon County School District has received for nearly 20 years.

Dillon County School Board chairman Richard Schafer was there in 1995 when the county first agreed to split their L.O.S.T. fund revenue with the board, something County Council Chairman Archie Scott says was a 'handshake agreement.'

Related: After 20 years, Dillon County schools won't get Local Option Sales Tax money from county

In 1995, the voters passed that 1-cent sales tax, about 71 percent of which would be used to roll back property taxes and the rest, and about 29 percent, would go towards a new jail, renovating the courthouse, school buildings, or the L.O.S.T. fund, with the agreement that the school board and county would split the revenue funds. The first payment was received in 1997.

But, Dillon County Council Chairman Archie Scott said, since he's been on council, there has never been a line item in any of the budgets they approved that gives half that revenue to the board and said he doesn't know why the county treasurer was giving the funds to the board.

Estes says there is no expenditure line item, but there is a revenue line item showing the split and every treasurer before her gave the board the money based on the agreement made in 1995.

No word on when the lawsuit will be heard.

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