Dillon County must hold money for school district until final ruling

DILLON, SC (WBTW) – A Circuit Court judge heard from the Dillon County treasurer and county administration during an emergency hearing about the county’s budget.

One week ago, the Dillon County Treasurer Jamie Estes filed a lawsuit against the county administration claiming the approved budget is illegal.

The hearing was held in Florence. The judge heard from the administration, school district, Northeastern Technical College and the treasurer, then made a temporary ruling.

“The treasurer has refused to disburse funds for other activities,” said Dillon County Lawyer Rob Tyson.

Tyson says the treasurer paid county employees, despite her attorney’s letter saying she would not disburse any money after Friday, but is slowing down progress on a multi-million dollar expansion project with Harbor Freight.

“The treasurer refused to write the check,” Tyson argued in court Thursday.

Tyson asked Judge Michael Nettles to order the treasurer to disburse the money, claiming the budget is legal.

“The county has that authority to declare a budget and everybody follows it,” claims Tyson.

Judge Nettles allowed the Dillon County school board and Northeastern Technical College to explain how they are impacted by the budget changes. The school district would receive no money in the current budget.

“I believe that’s a whole different ball game,” argues Tyson.

Judge Nettles told both schools that Thursday’s hearing is to review the treasurer’s job duties and make sure the county is paying its bills.

The treasurer’s attorney Charles Curry explained to the judge that $319,000 should be given to the school district as an agreement of a 1995 bond referendum.

“I would like to at least see something in there that tells her that half of that money will be set aside into a special account until some resolution can be made as to whether the board of education is entitled to the money or whether the county is entitled to the money,” says Curry.

Judge Nettles ruled to have the treasurer pay necessary bills like fuel, electricity, and expansion projects, but to set aside the money for both the Dillon County school district and Northeastern Technical College until another court date.

Tyson says the county is happy with the ruling.

“When the county is not sure on whether the funds will be spent or not going to be spent, it puts us in a precarious position and the judge recognized that quickly,” says Tyson. “We are very appreciative of that.”

The treasurer’s attorney said he hopes the judge would consider how the budget impacts monthly payments at the school.

Judge Nettles said Thursday’s ruling is a temporary solution and scheduled September 14 and 15 to hear all of the details surrounding the school district and Northeastern Technical College.