OCC gets earful during budget hearings

This year’s public hearing on the new Oconee County budgets lasted only a little more than 30 minutes. And the hearing room audience was small. Nevertheless, county leaders got an earful from a handful of speakers as to how they manage the taxpayers’ money and conduct their business. The proceeding prompted Joel Thrift, council chairman, at hearing end to lay part of the blame for additional spending at the feet of the state’s lawmakers who Thrift described as having reneged on funding for local governments. “One of the reasons that we are in the situation we are with the three mill tax increase is the lack of funding by our state legislature,” Thrift said. A split appeared among hearing speakers as to the level of support the county should provide to entice manufacturing job. First speaker Ben Turetsky said, in contrast to what he called a vocal minority, he believes both the County Council and the School Board have their focus on the right issues. “The fact is that they may not be spending enough,” he said. But John Morrey of Mountain Rest said asked, “Do you think a large county is going to choose this area because you are going to go out there and put all of this money into infrastructure?