Split with Jasper County could affect state funding

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Lowcountry Economic Alliance

Split with Jasper County could affect state funding

Published Thursday, June 14, 2012   |  619 Words  |  

Can there be an alliance of one?

The remaining members of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance -- composed now of only Beaufort County appointees following the departure of Jasper County -- believe the answer is yes.

But state legislators could have the final answer as they debate competing S.C. House and Senate budget plans that treat the alliance very differently.

"The legislation will determine the definition of an alliance and how all alliances will be funded," Amy Love, a spokesperson for the S.C. Commerce Department, said of the pending budget bills.

The S.C. House budget treats the Lowcountry group as a county-level organization rather than a regional alliance, making it ineligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in matching funds. Under that plan, Beaufort County -- not the alliance -- would receive up to $87,500 in matching funds.

The senate, on the other hand, still lists the Lowcountry group among the state's seven regional alliances, making it eligible for as much as $671,000 in matching funds.

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, says it is too late in the budget process to argue about the definition of a regional alliance.

"Now that we are in the 11th hour, to have this debate, it's inappropriate," he said, describing the senate budget as "equitable."

Funding is up in the air for all seven of the alliances because it's still not clear whether any state matching funds will be available. That will be determined when a compromise budget is approved, perhaps as early as next week.

The state-funding issue arose only in passing Thursday at the Lowcountry group's monthly meeting at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

"I think we could still operate -- that would be my gut right now -- but a lot of that will depend on how much private funding we could raise," newly elected board chairman David Tigges said after the meeting. "I think there is enough funding in either (scenario) for a year."

The alliance has about $340,000 in the bank, and recently attracted seven new board members who have pledged at least $10,000 each to join.

Also Thursday, the board appointed Ken Griffin of the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, to the board.

The board also elected new officers, heard a presentation about its new website and discussed the release Monday of a new regional economic study.

It also agreed to begin negotiations for a new contract with Kim Statler and Jessica Bridges of Lowcountry Consulting. The pair had been planning to sever ties with the organization at the end of June.

Tigges said the organization is "in the process of stabilizing" after Jasper County's departure.

"Our mission remains .. to promote and serve economic development in both Jasper and Beaufort county, and that is what we are going to do," he said.

Related content

  1. Lowcountry Economic Alliance appoints new members, despite Jasper County attorney's objection, May 21, 2012
  2. Jasper County Council votes to leave Lowcountry Economic Alliance; will join new group, May 16, 2012
  3. Beaufort officials say alliance would continue if Jasper ends its association, May 21, 2012