Minimal increase planned for garbage service in Walterboro | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | April 27, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: April 25, 2018 at 10:32 am
Walterboro residents are going to see the price of having their garbage hauled away go up slightly.
The proposed Walterboro budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which goes before city council for a first reading at the May 1 session, calls for residents to pay two dollars more each billing cycle for the residential collection service; commercial customers will see their bill climb by 20 percent.
Walterboro City Manager Jeff Molinari said the bill increase translates in $12 more a year for residential customers.
The sanitation rate is the only increase residents and businesses will find in the next budget. There is no increase in the ad valorem property tax, business licenses, or water or sewer rates.
The sanitation increase, Molinari said, “just gets us up to the break-even point. The city has been losing money on sanitation since 2015 and that number has been trending upward.”
To a lesser extent, the sanitation rate increase will help the city with what will be the highest capital expense in the next fiscal year budget: the purchase of a new garbage truck.
The budget allocates $224,000 towards the purchase of a new garbage truck. In 2015, when the city last purchased a garbage truck, it cost the city $204,000.
With a twice-weekly collection in the city, Molinari said the garbage trucks “get a lot of wear and tear. We need to keep the fleet in as good shape as possible.”
Even if the purchase is authorized in July, residents won’t see a new garbage truck on the streets any time soon. The time between the purchase and when the truck is put into service is at least nine months.
The city’s 2018-2019 budget totals $11,034,389. “A little bit less than last year,” Molinari said.
The budget is broken down into two areas: the General Fund and Enterprise Fund.
The Enterprise Fund covers the expenses in the operation of Walterboro’s revenue producing operations: water, wastewater and sanitation. The 2018-2019 Enterprise Fund will be $4,076,900.
The General Fund covers the expenses for everything else, including the city’s most expensive operations —police and fire. The General Fund for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, will be $6,957,489.
Several of the revenue sources in the city, Molinari said, have been demonstrating an improving local economy.
“We have seen an uptick in our local option sales tax revenue,” Molinari said. The local option sales tax, he explained, “is a really good indicator because it is collected at the point of sale.” An increase of the one-cent sales translates into “more money spent inside the city.
“We have seen a pretty consistent increase over the last couple of years. The upward trend has been encouraging because it indicates that the economy as a whole has been pretty strong in Walterboro,” the city manager added.
“Local hospitality, state and local accommodation taxes have been trending upwards as well, which is a direct correlation to the city and county’s investments in tourism, bringing more people into Walterboro. That’s encouraging as well,” Molinari said.
On the expenditure side of the budget, the city is going to have to absorb increases in its fringe benefits for city employees.
City officials have been informed that the employee health insurance program will see a 7.5 percent increase in the city’s share of the premiums.
The employees won’t see an increase but will be facing more out-of-pocket expenses through changes in the prescription costs and co-pays.
The budget also reflects the city’s two-percent increase of the payment into the state-run pension system.
Last year, the state legislature instituted a annual series of two-percent increases that local governmental entities will have to pay to address a shortfall in the pension systems.
After instituting the two-percent increase for political subdivisions last year, the state legislature approved a state contribution that brought the local share of the increase to one percent.
Although both the proposed state budgets from the South Carolina House and Senate, would again institute a contribution to bring the local increase down to one percent, Molinari said that the city budget is built to cover a two-percent increase.
He took the precaution of putting the two-percent increase in the budget, he explained, because the city’s budget has to be approved by June 30 and the state budget will probably not be finalized by then.
The proposed budget also gives city employees a one percent cost-of-living adjustment.
Molinari said that adjustment serves two purposes. It will help city employees absorb the increase out-of-pocket expenses in their health insurance.
Plus, he added, “We have to do all we can to provide a competitive salary and benefits” to recruit and retain municipal employees.
The Planning and Development Department’s budget contains a $25,000 allocation for the demolition of substandard properties.
“It is something city council spent a lot of time discussing at the retreat in January,” Molinari said.
Molinari said the city can use the demolition funds to bring down some substandard buildings on its own or it can seek a Community Development Block grant and, if successful, use money as the matching funds.
Usually the city has to put up a matching grant that reflects 10 percent of the federal grant.
But the city can’t apply for another Community Development Block Grant until it closes out the multi-year CDBG grant obtained for the North Lemacks Street revitalization project. That grant project should close this year.
The city’s payment of $8,000 to cover the cost of having a local attorney provide public defender services for city court makes its first appearance in the budget, although the city has been employing a public defender since last fall.
Contracting with an attorney to serve as the public defender in city cases where the defendant could face jail time became necessary last fall when the South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice sent out a memo requiring it.
“We had no other choice,” Molinari said.
Although the contract has been in place, he said, “it is its first time in the budget.”
The proposed budget also contains an allocation to the Utility Support Department to cover the cost of conducting a water/sewer/sanitation rate study.
The city has some significant capital projects under consideration: work on increasing capacity of water plant and addressing the aging water and wastewater piping systems in the ground.
It has been at least 10 years since Walterboro had a rate study conducted, Molinari pointed out. A rate study would help determine “if we are charging what we should be charging.” And it would enable the city “to do some capital planning.”