By Stan Welch
The West Pelzer Town Council eventually gave first reading approval to a proposed balanced budget which maintains the current millage while providing a three per cent across the board wage increase for the Town’s employees.
The vote came after more than an hour of discussion, most of which centered around a controversial offer from the town of Williamston to sell West Pelzer drinking water. The decision to provide the three per cent raises came after Town Clerk Paula Payton reported that the costs of such an increase was almost identical to an alternate proposal to offer a two percent raise for the police department and a four per cent raise to the rest of the Town’s employees.
Councilmen Randall Ledford and Robert Alexander credited the decision to increase police pay three years ago with helping to keep the department intact since that time, with no personnel changes. Both men also credited Chief Mike Clardy with keeping his force together and providing stability for the Town’s law enforcement.
The issue of a possible merit raise in lieu of across the board raises was discussed. Mayor Peggy Paxton recounted how the SCDOT, for whom she works, uses such a system. “Since I interact with nearly every employee every day, we could consider that approach.”
Councilman Ledford favored it, while Councilman Sanders suggested withholding half of the proposed three per cent raise to be meted out during the year based on job reviews by the Mayor.
Councilman Alexander recommended instituting any change in the next year’s budget, after making the Town’s employees aware of the change. “That seems to be the fairest way to do it, not just suddenly start it up.”
Without the proposed raise, the projected general fund payroll, including Council members, comes to $131,606, with $95,722 going to the police department. An additional $87,500 goes to payroll taxes, employee health insurance and retirement benefits.
Total projected revenues for the general fund are $336,782, with projected expenditures totaling $326, 690.
Water and sewer revenues are projected at $522,224 with estimated expenses of $503,756. The cost of sending the Town’s wastewater to ReWa for treatment is $126,000. Utilities are a large expense, with the new pumps installed at the treatment plant. They are estimated at $45,000.
The required public hearing on the budget will take place on July 8, prior to the regular Council meeting.