By David Meade
Williamston Town Council approved second reading on the town’s 2017-18 budget with a 3-2 vote during their regular monthly meeting Monday.
A motion to amend the budget to include a 2.5 mill tax increase was approved with a 3-2 vote. However a motion to approve the budget as amended failed after receiving no second. Council then went into executive session to discuss personnel matters, specifically Main Street and police salaries, related to the budget. Upon returning to open session, Council voted 4-1 to reconsider second reading on the budget, with Councilman David Harvell opposed.
An amendment was added placing a 5.02 percent base salary increase for certified officers into a contingency fund and to make a change in the Main Street budget. The amendment was approved 4-1 with Harvell opposed.
A vote on the 2017-18 budget as amended passed 3-2 with Councilman Harvell and Councilman Rockey Burgess opposed.
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said the budget includes some increases on the expense side and that it is a zero contingency budget. He expressed disappointment that council didn’t support proposed revenue increases that would have provided approximately $300,000 for the contingency fund.
“Any reasonable budget would have had a ten percent contingency,” Durham said.
Even with some concessions, the mayor said he was pleased with a number of projects and improvements that are funded in it.
“The town administration and council worked hard to get a balanced budget,” Durham said. “The current council is a great team and during the budget discussions, there were some very legitimate concerns.”
Though it does not include any extra revenue for contingency, it is a balanced budget, he said.
Budget highlights include infrastructure improvements for the town’s parks and recreation, new police cars, a trash packer truck and bins, a new loader for leaf and limb pickup and a number of small items for the recreation department.
“Due to past savings created by the fiscal responsibility of the current administration, we are able to replace much needed equipment,” Durham said.
The budget includes funding for a number of projects on the mayor’s prioorty list including:
Among those are ball field improvements, improvements to the town’s municipal auditorium, improvements in Mineral Spring Park, Brookdale Park and the Veterans Park
Planned improvement in Mineral Spring Park includes sod, mulch, irrigation and electrical.
Also a shade cloth, handicap area where the tennis courts are now located, covered market/bathrooms, and a food truck area.
The town is also planning to use a PRT grant for a Mineral Spring Trail extension to include loops on both ends of the current trail.
The town is working on a SCDOT Minor Street sidewalk project and Greenville Drive sidewalks. Durham said the town is using ARC and CDBG grant funds to accomplish the sidewalk improvements.
The town is already working on the West Main water tank property, preparing for a pocket park project which is included in the new budget.
Smaller projects include wing wall extensions on the covered bridge in the park, gravel for parking at Brookdale Park and the soccer field, rubber mulch for Brookdale and playground borders for Mineral Spring Park.
A fence funded with a PARD grant will be placed around the tank in the Veterans Park. Other planned improvements to the Veterans Park include a fenced dog park and Veterans Memorial.
The town is also planning to upgrade facilities at the town’s ballfields which are on property currently owned by Anderson School District One.
The town recently requested the property be donated to the town so the improvments can be made.
There is also funding for a major gateway plan.
Durham said $1 million in reserve funding is being used for many of the projects.
There are several small projects planned in the water department and a sewer study is planned.
The budget was passed with some concern by Councilman Rockey Burgess and David Harvell.
During the meeting Monday, there was some discussion about including the proposed increases in the sanitation fee and water/sewer rates however an amendment to the budget only included an increase in the millage rate.
The tax increase amounts to 2.5 increase, with the rate going from the current 110 mills to 112.5 mills.
The millage rate increase will result in only $24,500 in revenue for the town.
Councilman Harvell said he was opposed to the trash fee increase, a tax increase and the increase in salary for the Main Street Director.