PICKENS COUNTY — Ralph Guarino, finance director and interim county administrator for Pickens County, defended his position of not fully funding the requested budget increase from the board of elections, stating that the almost 44 percent increase that was approved should be enough — as long as the money was spent “wisely and efficiently.”
Rodney Allen, director of Voter Registration and Elections for Pickens County, originally asked that the budget be increased to $30,000, citing the need for additional help during an election season that would include six elections throughout the county.
The county granted $17,500.
“In fiscal year 2012, which is the same period we’re dealing with now — four years later — for office workers we spent $12,192.66,” Guarino said during last Monday’s meeting of Pickens County Council. “This year I recommended and Council approved $17,500. That’s almost a 44 percent increase.”
Guarino stated that he took into account the need for more office workers and recognized that the elections board would be handling more precincts this election season.
“I think it’s a huge amount to increase a budget over four years,” said Guarino. “That’s an 11 percent increase year over year.”
Allen had previously stated that the $17,500 appropriated wouldn’t be enough.
Councilman Randy Crenshaw of District 3 cut to the heart of the matter: “The bottom line on it is what I’m hearing is a fear of not being able to carry out an election. Is there actually a possibility that could happen?”
Guarino responded by stating that he didn’t want to go into too much detail and instead referred back to his original position that he had given everyone a “fair budget.”
“If they use the money wisely and efficiently,” answered Guarino. “Because you got to remember, this isn’t my money, this isn’t Council’s money. This is the taxpayers’ money. We got to remember that when we’re spending their money.”
Guarino went on to praise council’s history with the budget and stated that in the 15 years he had been involved there had yet to be a problem with elections.
“I have every confidence (elections) will take place next year without any problems,” said Guarino.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.