UNION — While some utility rates will increase property taxes will not under the proposed City of Union Municipal Budget for fiscal 2017-2018.
In its May meeting Tuesday evening, Union City Council voted unanimously to approve first reading of an ordinance setting the city’s property tax millage for the new fiscal year which begins July 1. The ordinance sets the municipal tax millage for the new fiscal year at 86.8 mills, unchanged from the current fiscal year.
Council also voted to approve first reading of the proposed budget ordinance which projects expenditures totaling $45,975,700, a 1.82 percent increase over the current year’s budget.
(The vote was not unanimous, however, with Council Member Vicki Morgan voting no.)
The municipal budget includes the General Fund which covers city departments such as the Union Public Safety Department; the Solid Waste Management Fund which covers the city’s collection/disposal of residential and business waste within its municipal boundaries; and the Utility Fund which covers the Utility Department and its water, sewer, electric, and natural gas divisions.
• General Fund
In the General Fund, revenues are projected at $5,383,170 and projected expenditures of 5,893,150 including $216,200 in expenditures for capital improvements and the purchase of capital equipment.
Expenditures in the proposed budget are approximately 3.8 percent lower than in the current budget, but even with the decrease, however, the General Fund budget is still left with a projected deficit of $509,980.
The projected deficit will be covered by a combination of fund balance and new revenue generated by the 1 cent local option sales tax. The city is expected to begin receiving revenue generated by the 1 cent local option sales tax this month.
In addition, the revenue generated by the 1 cent local option sales tax will also provide taxpayers in the City of Union with a credit against their municipal property taxes.
• Solid Waste
The Solid Waste Management Fund for 2017-2018 is almost a break even with a budget of $764,380, an increase of less than 1 percent. As a result, increase is proposed for the Solid Waste Management Fee for fiscal 2017-2018.
In his report on the proposed budget to council, Finance Director Walker Gallman also discussed the proposed purchase of a brush truck for Solid Waste Management. He said that if approved by council, the truck would be purchased under a lease-purchase agreement.
• Utility Fund
Revenues for the Utility Fund are projected to total $37,448,640 with proposed expenditures totaling $38,474,720, an increase of 3.3 percent over last year’s proposed budget. This leaves a projected deficit of $1,026,083 would be covered with retained earnings.
The Utility Fund budget also includes the proposed increases in water, sewer, and electric rates:
— A 2 percent sewer rate increase.
— A 2 percent water rate increase and a increase in the base charge for customers with meters sizes 2 inches and above.
— A 5 percent electric rate increase with the PPG continuing to true up the cost of power each month.
Natural gas base rates will not increase, but the PGA will continue to true up the cost of gas each month.
The proposed budget also includes a 2 percent cost of living increase for city employees.
• Special Revenue Funds
The proposed also includes the following Special Revenue Funds and their budgets for the new fiscal year:
— Local Hospitality and Accommodations ($405,000)
— Main Street Junction ($111,450)
— Economic Development Fund ($200,000)
— Drug Fund ($7,000)
— Community Change ($30,000)
— Debt Service-Tax Increment ($90,000)
Second and final reading of the proposed budget along with a public hearing will be held during the June meeting of council.
In other business, council voted unanimously to approve the awarding of the following bids for the following projects:
— Ottaray Mill Village Phase III Sewer Improvements to Smith Backhoe & Construction, LLC for $328,657.50.
The awarding of the bid is contingent upon its approval by the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority.
— Foster Street Area Sewer Rehabilitation to IPR Southeast LLC for $698,918.
The awarding of the bid is contingent upon the approval of the contract documents by the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
Council also voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing Mayor Harold Thompson to enter the city into a “Victim Assistance Agreement” with Union County.
The agreement states that under South Carolina’s “Victim’s Bill of Rights,” local governments are required to provide certain services “to ensure that all victims of and witnesses to a crime are treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, and sensitivity, the rights and services extended in the law to victims of and witnesses to a crime are honored and protected by law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and judges in a manner no less vigorous than the protections afforded criminal defendants.”
The agreement further states that “Union County will provide the City of Union with services of a Victim Advocate for the purposes of assistance, notification of release of offenders, notification of court appearances, assistance with reimbursement forms, and other counseling services, as well as the other services” mandated by state law “to be provided by the law enforcement agency.”
The agreement further states that the city “will provide Union County with the monies collected pursuant” to state law “that are retained by the City of Union for the purpose of providing services for victims of crime or funding other equipment and services for the City of Union Police Department as allowed by legislative directive.”
The agreement states that those monies collected by the city and transferred to the county each month “will be placed in the Victim Services Account through the Union County Treasurer’s Office just as if those funds were maintained by Union County through general sessions and magistrate’s court surcharges.”
The agreement also states “that the Victims Advocates will be employees of the City of Union at all times even when rendering services within the City of Union;” that the “Victim Advocate’s job description(s) will be revised and updated to incorporate additional duties regarding providing services to the City of Union;” that the county will provide the city “with monthly, quarterly, and year-end reports regarding the number of victims, types of victims and services provided to victims on behalf of the City of Union.”
Council also voted unanimously to donate $500 to the 19th Annual Senior Citizens Expo which will be held at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Thursday, May 25 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
The expo, which is sponsored by WBCU and its co-sponsors, provides activities, entertainment, and door prizes.
Council also voted unanimously to change the date for its June meeting.
Regular city council meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month, but due to scheduling conflicts Thompson asked that the June meeting be held Tuesday, June 6.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.