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Council on the Budget: less than ten minutes

First reading approval is given - final reading is expected June 17


It took Clinton City Council less than 10 minutes at a called meeting to get on the same page about a $33.6 Million city budget for the next fiscal year.

It raises taxes, sewer rates, water rates, and residential and commerce garbage fees to make the budget balance. It will receive final approval on June 17.

Council did not include public comments on its May 21 called meeting agenda to give the budget first reading approval. Council does not include public comments on its May 23 called meeting agenda to review community development grant requests - that meeting is at 4:30 p.m. in council chambers of the municipal center.

Mayor Randy Randall said the Council Finance Committee met to review the document, but there is no agenda listing when and where the meeting was scheduled on the city’s website.

City Manager Tom Brooks said the budget has been reviewed in one-on-one meetings with each council member. Council’s budget workshop was held May 6 (agenda posted). There are information packets on the city’s website dated May 6 for the budget workshop and May 21 for the called meeting/first reading, for anyone interested in reviewing the proposed budget’s line items.

At its called meeting (normally the Clinton City Council meets the first Monday of the month), council also proclaimed May 2024 as National Cities, Towns and Villages Month, in conjunction with the National League of Cities; and bought a replacement tractor from Wilson Tractor in Newberry, a Kubota at a cost of $62,819.59 (with bush hog and front-end loader); it’s not the low bid of three but a note says it seems to be the best equipment and the service location is closer than the other two. It replaces a 2017 tractor that will be sold, and the money applied to the new purchase, with the balance coming from hospitality and accommodations money. The equipment will work on city rights of way and at the new recreation complex.

Related to the proposed budget: General Fund revenues are projected at $9,340,654, and Utility Fund revenues are projected at $24,234,404.

The City will pay 10% more for employees’ health insurance, (all these figures are according to the May 17 budget summary).

There will be 2.5% more available to departments for merit raises based on evaluations.

Taxes will increase by 2.7 mils to raise $25,000.

Sewer rates will increase 10% to generate $260,000.

Water rates will increase 7% to generate $229,250.

Residential garbage - per month - will increase from $16.50 to $20.63 to generate $120,000. The same percentage will be applied to commercial garbage rates to generate $100,000.

In sewer, the city will increase the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission expense by $340,000 to reflect the annual expenditures for the past 2 years.

A new Animal Control effort in the city will cost $170,000 - it includes maintaining a service agreement with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. Council has been under pressure to develop the city’s own animal control rapid-response since an 11-year-old boy was mauled by roaming dogs earlier this year on North Livingston Street; he recovered, but is undergoing extensive physical therapy.

One position will be added to Parks & Recreation along with an additional $30,000 in capital expense.

Municipal Court will have a $20,000 increase for new software to transition over to county court.

Main Street Clinton will be funded at $25,000 to work with downtown businesses.

The Museum will be appropriated $5,000 for building maintenance and repairs.

There are 10 capital expenses by department listed that each total more than $50,000.

These major expenses and fee/tax increases are listed, along with budget line items, in the May 17 budget highlights document, included in the May 21 called meeting packet on the City of Clinton’s website.

There was no estimate provided as to how much an average household can expect to pay - overall - with the city’s proposed increases. Brooks said once final approval is given, residents will be billed at the new rates.

First reading approval was unanimous.

The budget requires one additional reading, majority council approval, and a public hearing (normally, 2 minutes per comment) before it becomes an official ordinance - officials want to have the budget in place by July 1. Council meetings are live-streamed on the City Facebook page.

Randall said at Tuesday’s called meeting, by state law, the staff is required to submit to the council a balanced budget, “and this is what they have done.”