West Pelzer budget reflects cuts, tax increase

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By Stan Welch

The West Pelzer Town Council will meet next Monday, July 14, to consider final approval of the Town’s budget for FY 2104-2015.

The budget, which has passed one vote, included a number of cuts, including several in the police budget. Those cuts did not include firing a police officer, as proposed by Councilman Jeanes. He also sought to cut the court clerk’s hours and eliminating a part time position in the water department.

The budget, for the first time in well over a decade, will raise taxes by three mills. Based on the valuation of the property within the town, a mill generates approximately $1600 in revenue per year. The increase represents a minor effort to begin building reserves in the general fund in preparation for potential emergency expenses.

That will be a necessary step towards avoiding the use of the proposed tax anticipation note (TAN) as a regular means of dealing with the Town’s cash flow problems.The Council gave first reading approval to the ordinance authorizing the issuance of the TAN after hearing from Pope Zeigler, Inc. lawyer and representative Margaret McGee, who explained the benefits of the device used to manage a governmental body’s cash flow during the course of a year.

The town borrows a percentage of its anticipated tax revenue to help it through the customary revenue drought that comes during the middle to latter part of the budget year. McGee stressed that the method is not designed to be a regular part of a town’s financial strategy, thereby making the creation of a contingency fund much more attractive.

Cuts were made to the police department budget, with subscriptions and dues being cut, as well as uniform expenses and office supplies. The salary of town clerk Paula Payton will be paid entirely from the general fund budget, as opposed to some of the budget proposals which would have split her salary between the general fund and the water and sewer fund. Councilman Jeanes did not consider those cuts to be adequate and walked out of the meeting after a spirited exchange with Mayor Peggy Paxton.

The final budget approved at first reading also includes a three per cent increase in water and sewer rates, which will add just under five dollars a month to the average residential customer, and just a bit over five dollars to the average industrial customer. It will increase the annual revenues to the water and sewer department by approximately $23,000 a year, which will allow the department to absorb anticipated increases in the price ReWa charges, and to begin building a reserve fund.

The regular Council meeting will be preceded by a public hearing on the budget at 5:30 p.m.