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Citizens can weigh in: Does Clinton need, or can it afford, a $31.8M budget?

Nov. 27 is set by the city council as final reading of a budget amendment


At a called meeting on Nov. 27, Clinton City Council will adopt a budget amendment of $31,845,345, according to an advertisement posted in The Laurens County Advertiser.

A majority of council rejected a similar amount Oct. 23, and sent the measure back for an adjustment. It came back basically unadjusted (in terms of employee raises) on Nov. 6, and this time it passed unanimously. 

The Nov. 27 meeting will be a public hearing. The last time council held this kind of public hearing it got 4 minutes of comments from residents.

Link to the Budget Amendment here.

When the budget passes, City employees will receive a 5% across the board, cost of living raise. The current rate of inflation is 3.70%.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, city employees filled the meeting space gallery, but none spoke to council.

The budget amendment is 6% higher than the budget that council adopted for the city last summer. City Manager Tom Brooks has said the city needs a mid-year budget adjustment to more accurately reflect today’s revenue and expenses. 

The City will increase residential electrics rate to raise enough money to balance the budget (since each additional mil of tax raises a very small amount for the city).

At the Nov. 27 meeting, citizens will have 2 minutes each to explain to council their opinions about the proposed budget.

Council rejected this budget by a 5-2 vote on Oct. 23.

Council approved this budget by a 7-0 vote on Nov. 6.

Council members said they are making an investment in the “human capital” of the City of Clinton.

Council Member Anita Williams asked if the budget could be considered on Dec. 4, the next regular council meeting.

Council Member Megan Walsh said no, that would be 5 months into the fiscal year with still no budget.

“I want this budget passed,” she said.

Council Member Danny Cook said the council’s finance committee met for 2 hours after the Oct. 23 vote to hammer out another budget. However, there is nothing on the public record to show any meetings of the Clinton City Council Finance Committee.

When a majority of council sent the budget back to Brooks, it was with a clear instruction: change the 5% raise for everybody to this: 5% for hourly employees; for $50,000 to $75,000 annual salary, 3%; for above $75,000 annual salary, 2%.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, Brooks said of the revised budget, “I was instructed to take another look at the budget and the revisions were done by me and the finance committee, that’s what you have in front of you. All the requests were looked at and taken care of.”

All, except the 5% across the board raise.

Walsh said throughout her childhood, her family worked for the government and she remembered a time they went 5 years without a cost of living raise, and how difficult that was on the family.

“I belief our human capital is our most valuable resources in the city. I want a budget passed so we can retroactively enact this increase to our employees,” she said.

Council Member Anita Williams countered, “I agree, I’m not against any employee getting cost of living. But we are a small town charm. We are a town with less than 7,700 population. I am for all employees getting a fair increase — I stand by the tier system that I proposed. 

“I have to stand by my conviction. I have to stand by what is good for the City of Clinton. I appreciate seeing all the employees here; and I hope they come back and they know they are important as employees and as citizens.”

When the council gave the new, revised $31.8 Million budget figure first reading approval, it never stated an amount for the revenues equal expenditures balanced-budget amendment. 

That came two days later in the newspaper ad.

The City also posted the Nov. 27 called meeting date and time on its Facebook page.

Council Members Cook, Gary Kuykendall, Ronnie Roth, and Robbie Neal also changed their votes from the tiered cost of living raise on Oct. 23 to the across the board cost of living raise on Nov. 6. Walsh and Mayor Randy Randall voted against the tiered raise on Oct. 23 and voted for the budget that includes the across the board raise on Nov. 6.

As part of the discussion, council was told the State has recommended a 5% raise for its employees and the County approved a 6% raise for its employees.

Brooks indicated that at some time in the future, Clinton employees also will become eligible for merit raises. He said Clinton is losing valuable employees because it is inconsistent with raises.

Cook said the finance committee “went through this stuff again and again (and) in revenues and expenditure so far this year, this budget is manageable.”

He said city staff understands that financial reporting to the full council is important, and he is confident that will be done once a budget amendment is in place.

Kuykendall said, for his vote last time, he was thinking about Clinton residents subsisting on $28,000 a year, and what an electric rate increase to finance a raise for employees would mean to them.

Neal said, “They brought a strong budget back to us, and we all have to work as a team.”

Randall called developing a budget “one of the most important things we do” adding “nobody is doing anything out of spite or malice, we’ve got to pass a budget, we’ve got to move on with it — I’m going to always support the employees.”

The Nov. 27 meeting to give final reading approval to the $31,845,345 budget amendment will be at 6 p.m. in the PS Bailey Council Chambers of the MS Bailey Municipal Building, 211 North Broad Street in Clinton.