Smail, maintenance tax hike expected
City Council tackles General Funds in first budget workshop.
In a proposed set of budget numbers presented to Clinton City Council last week, Finance Director Renee Morrow presented to Council the city’s General Funds, which increased by less than two percent at 1.91 percent. The Utility Fund – to be covered in a separate meeting – increased by .11 percent. Overall, the entire budget increased by .5 percent. Morrow said the budget is tight, but the goal was to “keep it as close as we could with no increases.”
In a summary of General Fund Revenue since 2018-19, Morrow noted the many ways Clinton receives revenue – fees, licenses and inspections, intergovernmental, fines and forfeitures, interest income, sales and service, Clinton Newbery Natural Gas Authority (CNNGA), and other financing sources. Morrow said many people think that way is through taxes, but that isn’t the case. Taxes only make up 13 percent of revenue and fines only bring in one percent of revenue. She said increases in General Funds Revenue (except for taxes) are based on current trends.
The same can be said for business licenses. Last year, the city brought in $878,000 in revenue – there is currently $890,000 budgeted for the upcoming year. The Local Option Sales Tax (Penny Sales Tax) brought in revenue of $848,000 ($850,000 budgeted). Both of these numbers are based on trends throughout the years.
During the workshop, Councilman Danny Cook proposed to Council doing an analysis on Rosemont cemetery, which is bringing in only $500 revenue, according to the numbers presented. Cook said he would like to know what it is truly costing to operate the cemetery.
“The previous manager (Bill Ed Cannon) and I were in the process of evaluating of where we are currently and ways to build upon that to price out cutting the grass – cost effective measures we could put into place on top of evaluating a path for it whether that be getting somebody to handle it or if we continue to handle it,” said Interim City Manager Thomas Higgs.
The next steps, Higgs said, would be at the guidance of Council once an analysis is presented.
Mayor Bob McLean said the cemetery, which has been a topic of discussion for years, needs to be taken seriously.
“I think one of the options is to expand and beautify it – make it a little more attractive. There are 34 acres next to it that we could expand that cemetery, sell it market rate, put that money in the bank and let it grow so that 30 years from now maybe the people who are sitting in our seats won’t have this hanging around their neck,” he said.
One area residents will see an increase in is property taxes. Morrow said property taxes were not raised last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but residents will see a small increase based on allowable Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 1.23 percent (113.78 mills).
“With the Local Options Sales Tax that we get it’s about .55 cents a month so you multiply that times 12 and it’s like $6.50 a year that the taxes will increase this year on a $100,000 home – that’s just a standard to use that way you can multiply up or down how much your home is worth. That would be an average home,” she said.
Mayor and Council salaries came in at $16,759 (increases included in the budget ordinance of FY 2019-20) and travel was reduced by $2,000 for a total budget increase of $14,923.
Salaries and wages for the City Manager decreased ($90,722) due to the “reduction of a position within the department” and there was an operations decrease of $18,750, mostly attributed to a $6,000 car allowance for the City Manager – that amount is not in the budget anymore. The total budget increase was $31,862.
The Finance Department had a property insurance change of $22,000 and a total budget decrease of $1,033.
Within the Police Department, the department had an overall total of $2,218,267 in salaries and wage -it increased by $80,205. Morrow added that $180,000 was offset by a grant from the South Carolina Department of Education for School Resource Officers – additionally, she said the School District pays $90,000 towards SROs. All police vehicles were purchased by Depreciation funds, increasing the Depreciation line by $12,000. The department had a reported operations increase by $6,386 and the overall budget increased by $33,591.
The Fire Department saw an increase of $44,276 (overall salaries and wages of $1,022,376) and a total budget increase of $79,373.
For streets, there were no notable changes – it increased by $3,000 overall. Salaries and wages increased by $32,722 and pavements/sidewalks decreased by $60,000 – there was a $14,311 overall decrease for streets.
Other notable items highlighted include: Parks, Recreation, Library and Cemetery ($21,550 increase); $2,159 increase for courts; Community and Economic Development ($813 increase); Museum (total budget change of $3,031), Legal Services (total budget decrease of $12,000) and Planning and Inspection ($22,497 increase).
Total General Fund Expenses and Revenues for the FY 2021-22 are projected at $7,331,969.
* Upon returning from Executive Session, a motion was made by Councilwoman Megan Walsh to authorize the acting City Manager to enter into a contract for project management of city owned properties. An announcement will be made soon as to who the contract will be with. Councilman Danny Cook seconded the motion. The vote by Council was unanimous.