Cottageville experiences financial difficulty


In an emergency town meeting February 5, Cottageville Mayor Donald Dulin surrounded by members of Cottageville Town Council presided over a meeting with an agenda of discussing the disbanding of the Cottageville Police Department.

Dulin announced the town had to downsize its police force because there was no money to pay the three officers that had been on payroll. Figures were presented to show how much more debt the town would accrue if there were 3 officers, 2 officers, and 1 officer. The figures ranged from over one hundred thousand dollars to less than ten thousand. Dulin commented they’ve been trying to find ways to get the town out of debt. Everything that could be cut has already been cut. Dulin acknowledged that the financial situation he inherited in Cottageville was “really, really bad” and the problem goes back sometime.

The debt relates to the tickets written in town. A portion of the money from each ticket goes to Cottageville, a portion to the academy, and a portion goes to the state. In the past, when the town could not pay its bills it kept the portion that was supposed to go to the state. The State of South Carolina eventually recognized they were not getting their portion and called in what was owed. At one point the town owed approximately $750,000. It has since come down to around $325,000. An agreement was made with the state for a payment plan. Then the covid pandemic came and “some other things happened” and the town began withholding that state portion again. The numbers were reconfigured and now the payment is a little bit more than before. Dulin does affirm that the debt is being paid down. He commented “we owe a lot of money and we’re not making any revenue. What we get is what we get and we have to do the best we can with what we have.” Cottageville has no town tax and taxes were not raised during the course of the situation.

The biggest expenditure for the town was the Cottageville Police force and the mayor, a retired police officer himself, reluctantly had to let officers go, however the Cottageville Police Department will remain open. Disbanding the police department was considered, but ultimately that course of action was dismissed. The plan is to start rebuilding the police department when the debt is paid and disbanding and reassembling the force involves a lot of red tape and expense. The decision was made to keep CPD open with one officer and one reserve officer.

The floor was then opened for discussion and while emotions ran a little high at some points the citizens were civil. The main concern was the reduction in the police force and what that would mean for the safety and protection of Cottageville. After expressing those concerns, many of those present began to “brainstorm” what the town could do to pay a police force and pay down the current debt. One citizen suggested a committee to work in conjunction with the Mayor and Town Council, and Mayor Dulin expressed interest the proposition. Overall, citizens were concerned, but the tone changed to addressing and fixing the underlying problem; town finances.