City Council Budget: Local revenue stream rising for 2017 | News | The Press and Standard

by | May 12, 2017 5:00 am

Last Updated: May 11, 2017 at 9:05 am

By GEORGE SALSBERRY

gsalsberry@lowcountry.com

Walterboro City Manager Jeff Molinari is not prepared to put a number to the city’s revenue in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

But he likes what he has seen as the fiscal year moves into its final weeks.

On the summary sheet Walterboro City Council used in preparing the budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the amended General Fund revenue currently stands at $6,747,362. The same sheet estimates the General Fund revenue for the next fiscal year at $7,023,211.

Although he will not put a number to revenue collected in the current fiscal year, Molinari admitted that it will be greater than the $275,000 difference between the 2016-2017 amended revenue and the current 2017-2018 revenue projection.

In looking at the local revenue numbers, Molinari said the additional municipal income does not come from one specific revenue stream.

He suggested that the city has seen incremental increases in every local revenue source.

There have been increases in the business tax, local option sales tax and the property tax. Every revenue source tied to tourism, like the hospitality tax, has gone up.

Molinari likes the fact that the increased revenue is spread out among the variety of revenue sources. He said that an incremental upward trend in a variety of revenue sources makes a more stable growth.

Will that incremental growth continue into the next fiscal year? Molinari said that all depends on the national economy.

The bottom line is the revenue projections and city’s spending plan for the coming fiscal year translates to no increase in the ad valorem property tax, business license or water and sewer rate for residents and businesses.

The budget ordinances which received their first reading at Walterboro City Council’s May 2 meeting, show a general fund of $7,155,211 and an enterprise budget of $4,114,100.

The enterprise budget basically covers the revenue and expenditures in the three city departments that generate income: the sanitation, water and  sewer operations.

The proposed Enterprise Fund for Walterboro shows a minor (less than $100,000) increase in the next fiscal year. The amended budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year was $4,022,150.

The General Fund covers all the other day-to-day operations of the city.

Almost every account in the city’s General Fund sees an increase in the proposed budget, which will get a public hearing, second reading and final passage at Walterboro City Council’s June 6 meeting. The budget has to be approved before the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.

The only exception is the Planning and Development Department, which will see a substantial decrease. In the current fiscal year, Planning and Development received $228,920; in the next fiscal year the allocation will drop to $116,916.

The bulk of that decrease, approximately $107,000, is in the department’s personnel portion of the budget.

The drop in amount of money dedicated to personnel, Molinari explained, is the result of a reorganization of the department.

After parting ways with its code enforcement officer, the city contracted with the Colleton County Planning and Development Office to handle all its inspections.

That was a temporary move to ensure the inspections continued in a timely fashion while the city searched for a new code enforcement officer.

Now, Molinari said, the city has revised its plan. At its June meeting, Walterboro City Council is expected to approve hiring a private company to handle the city’s inspection services.

The reorganization of the department also has code enforcement handled under the police department budget.

The newly named assistant city manager, Hank Amundson, will have supervision of the department as part of his job description.

In addition to supervising Planning and Development, Amundson will lead the city’s economic development work and handle special projects and grants administration.  Amundson worked at the city’s Economic Development Department before leaving for the Lowcountry Council of Governments.

One of the biggest increases can be found in the Finance Department. Finance had an allocation of $372,101 in the current fiscal year.  In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the Finance Department allocation will climb to $554,035.

That increase all comes in the department’s operating portion of the account and is not new money.

The rise in the department’s allocation is primarily due to an accounting change suggested by the city’s auditors. They suggested the city move its allocation to South Carolina’s Other Retirement Benefits Trust from the Reserve Accounts portion of the budget to the Finance Department.

Retirement pensions, primarily the increases in both the city’s and employees’ shares caused by the state legislature’s move to address shortfall problems in the state’s pension systems, is addressed in the city’s proposed budget.

In addition to adjusting the budget to absorb the city’s increase in the S.C. state retirement system and the police officers retirement system, the city plans to implement a one percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees.

Unfortunately, Molinari said, the city employees are going to have to use a portion of their cost-of-living increase to absorb their additional pension costs.

The city, he added, also faces a two-and-one-half-percent increase in health insurance premiums. Fortunately, he said, the health insurance premium increase will not adversely affect the city employees’ paychecks.

Walterboro General Fund allocations

Department            2016-2017                2017-2018

City Council              $173,940                      $203,968

City Manager           $248,250                     $341,319

Finance                     $372,101                       $554,035

Public Works           $891,417                        $901,189

Planning &Development $228,920            $116,916

Police                       $2,426,492                    $2,591,188

Judicial                   $194,983                        $201,732

Fire                          $1,146,970                      $1,374,310

Parks                      $436,631                          $714,337

Tourism                $139,366                            $156,217

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