Williamston working on 2024-25 budget – Minimum wages/increase in water rates being considered


During a budget work session held Monday, Williamston Town Council discussed a two percent across the board raise for town employees, a minimum wage for town employees, an increase in water rates, fireworks and the old hospital building.
Council approved first reading on a draft 2024-25 budget at the May 6 meeting, however a number of changes are being considered prior to second reading, which is expected to be held at the June 3 meeting of Council.
Mayor Rockey Burgess is proposing a two percent cost of living raise for all employees in all departments. Council and Mayor salaries will not be included. Burgess said the slight increase “Helps us keep up.” He said he would like to see employees receive at least a two percent increase each year rather than going several years and trying to catch up with a large increase.
The Council will also consider a request by Councilman Lee Cole to ensure that no town employee, except those on hiring probation, make at least that $14 per hour. Under the proposal, new employees would be hired at a lower rate but reach the $14 minimum after their 90 day probationary period. Cole also suggested a minimum wage of $18 per hour for all CDL drivers. Team leads would receive an additional $1 per hour.
There was some discussion about possibly hiring a second part-time paid position at the fire department. The Chief’s position is currently a full time position and there is currently one other paid person who works part-time.
There was some discussion about pay rates in the police department, which are lower than other nearby agencies competing for officers, putting the town at a recruiting and hiring disadvantage. Stricter Police Training Academy and accreditation requirements are also affecting staffing in the police department.
In a related staffing matter, Utilities Director David Rogers, who has worked for the town for 48 years, will be retiring July 1st. There was brief discussion about hiring someone for the position or considering a city administrator. Rogers began work with the Town in the Public Works department one week after graduating high school.
Council is also considering a six percent increase in water rates to cover a six percent increase by their water supplier, the Anderson Regional Joint Water System. During discussions it was suggested that the base rate for the first 1000 gallons used would remain the same. The rate per 1000 gallons used over the base rate would increase by six percent, from $3.82 per/1000 gallons to $4.05 per/1000 gallons. The increase would amount to about .23 cents to one dollar on the average customers monthly water bill. Those using less than the minimum base of 1000 gallons would see no increase.
A budgeted amount of $20,000 for improvements to the old Williamston hospital building will likely be cut from the new budget. Mayor Burgess said the Town has already spent approximately $22,000 on the building and another $8,000 to demo an old house structure that was on the property.
The Town has been in the process of obtaining ownership of the old hospital property on Williams Street. After serving as the Williamston Youth Academy from 2016 to 2018, the owners of the group home for teens relinquished their group home license and closed the facility.
It was purchased by an investor, Williamston Center LLC and a number of renovations were made, however the new owner failed to pay property taxes and the property went through the Anderson County Tax Sale process in Oct. 2022. The delinquent taxes were not paid and the property was not redeemed, resulting in it being forfeited to Anderson County. The County offered the property to the Town and the Town has been in the process of obtaining a clear title. However, according to Mayor Burgess, there is a mortgage company with an interest in the property.
Burgess said the Town will be looking at legal options with the mortgage company.
There was some discussion about compensating the fire department for the savings the Town will see on the fireworks display for the upcoming Freedom Celebration. The fire department will purchase fireworks and take care of requirements associated with producing the fireworks show, saving the Town money that would be paid for a licensed professional fireworks display.
The draft budget presented on first reading showed General Fund revenues of $4,284,336, up $298,036 from last year. General Fund Expenses amounted to $4,317,177, resulting in a $32,841 deficit.
The Water Fund shows revenues and expenses of $2,335,700. The Sewer Fund shows revenues and expenses of $1,295,120. The total budget for 2024-2025 is $7,915,150.
Mayor Burgess said with some adjustments in the proposed budget, he would present a balanced budget for second reading.
Second reading on the 2024-25 budget is expected for the June 3 Town Council meeting.