These ‘county’ entities not controlled by County Council

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Brian Carnes

What do Lancaster County government, Lancaster County School District, Lancaster County Water and Sewer, Lancaster County Natural Gas, Lancaster County Transportation Committee, Lancaster County Library, Lancaster County Courthouse, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department, Lancaster County Voter Registration, Lancaster County Treasurer, Lancaster County Auditor, Lancaster County Probate Judge and the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office all have in common?

They all have Lancaster County in their names and they are all either separate government entities in Lancaster County or not under the direct control of Lancaster County Council.

Often I get calls regarding issues or concerns with one of these government entities. Residents see Lancaster County in the name of an organization and assume it is part of Lancaster County government, which falls under the Lancaster County Council. They are surprised to find out that County Council is not over those areas. In this month’s column, I would like to give everyone some insight as to who is in charge in the county.

Let’s start with the school district. Lancaster County School District is an autonomous governing body that is overseen by a seven-member board. That board hires the chief executive officer for the school district, who is Dr. Gene Moore, and it sets policy and the budget for the school district. About 67 percent of the property taxes collected in the county go to run the school district.

Lancaster County Water and Sewer and Lancaster County Natural Gas are both special purpose districts authorized by state law. They are overseen by their own boards of directors, recommended by our state delegation (senators and House members for Lancaster County) and appointed by the governor.

Their boards of directors are responsible for hiring their chief executive officer and set policy, the budget and rates for each entity.

The Lancaster County Transportation Committee oversees the paving of roads in the county, utilizing funds that are part of the gasoline taxes collected by the state. The county receives about $1.1 million in paving funds each year. Twenty percent of those funds have to be used for paving state roads. The remainder is used to pave or resurface county roads. Each County Council member recommends a member for their district to the state delegation and they approve the appointment. CTC members serve at the will of the state delegation.

The Lancaster County Library Board, Lancaster County Courthouse, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department, Lancaster County Voter Registration and the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office all receive funding as part of the county budget approved by County Council, but they are all autonomous in their operations.

The library board is composed of nine members (one from each council district and two at-large members). They oversee the operation of the county libraries and hire library employees.

Lancaster County Courthouse is owned by Lancaster County, but it is run by Clerk of Court Jeff Hammond, who is an elected official. None of the employees who work in the courthouse are county employees. They either work for the state or for elected officials such as the sheriff and the probate judge. County Council provides a majority of the revenue needed to operate the courthouse, but does not control courthouse operations. Likewise, the county Magistrates Court is owned by the county and the county pays for most of its operation, but its employees are all either state employees or work for elected officials.

The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, Lancaster County Treasurer’s Office, Lancaster County Auditor’s Office, and the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office budgets are approved by County Council.

All of these offices are under the direction of elected officials, who are responsible for the operations, personnel and budget for their operations. They do not report to the county administrator or to County Council.

The Lancaster County Voter Registration and Veterans Affairs offices are housed in the county office building. Voter Registration is overseen by the Lancaster County Election Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor upon recommendation of the state delegation for the county.

They are responsible for registering voters and overseeing elections within the county. The Veterans Affairs office works with our veterans and their families to help them get the benefits that they deserve. The Veterans Affair officer is appointed by the state delegation

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of who is in charge of the different governmental operations in the county.

Next month’s column will be about the county budget process.

If you have any questions or if you need to contact me, you can e-mail me at briancarnes@lancastercountysc.net.

Lancaster County Councilman Brian Carnes represents District 1