Members of the public are invited to speak on Tuesday about Aiken County Council's proposed $51.4 million budget. Council has called a special meeting to listen to comments from those who wish to talk about the budget, which doesn't call for a new tax increase and is $1.5 million less than the current budget. "The budget is the most important thing we do every year," said County Administrator Clay Killian. "It's how we spend their (taxpayers') money. It sets the work plan for the year. I think Council takes the comments very seriously." The budget notes a $2.5 million loss in total revenue particularly in recessionary-driven markets like new home construction. It is projected that revenues in the Registrar of Mesne Conveyance (RMC) are down $450,000 and the Planning and Development Department is down $300,000. The budget proposes several strategies to help the County absorb the lost revenue. Among those is a 20 percent reduction in funds allocated to the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, Helping Hands, Clemson Extension Service, Golden Harvest Food Bank, the USC Aiken Small Business Development Center and Helpline 211. The budget also proposes cutting assistance to the County's volunteer fire departments by $50,000, continuing with the hiring freeze, deferring all but critical vehicle replacements for one year, raising the health insurance costs for employees by 3.1 percent and delaying for at least one year construction of a new emergency medical services substation. A total of $2 million from the capital fund and $1 million from the capital lease/debt service fund has been moved to the operations fund to help balance the budget. Aiken County Council will meet at 6 p.m. in chambers located at 736 Richland Ave.