No tax increase for Summerville

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summerville residents can expect no millage increase for 2015.

The millage is staying at 62.4 mills and can be increased or decreased only by a vote of council but, according to Mayor Bill Collins, the town is going to be working with the money it has.

Council members met Aug. 22 for their annual budget retreat, during which the mayor presents his proposed budget for the council members’ consideration. This year’s budget retreat was held at Councilman Terry Jenkins’s residence on the Toogoodoo River in Hollywood.

Summerville is facing a budget of $26,679,170 in 2015 – about $30,000 less than the 2014 budget of $26,716,209.

“Last year our budget was a little more because we got more money from our fund balance to resurface roads in neighborhoods,” Collins said. “This year we are not proposing to do that.”

Collins said the millage is staying as it is because Summerville has grown in businesses and has seen an increase in revenues.

Nothing discussed at the budget retreat is set in stone; the budget will be submitted for first reading in October, followed by a public hearing. The budget takes effect in January.

Town departments

Most operational and capital requests made by the town’s departments are being recommended for funding.

Some areas, like the police department, are getting slightly less than requested. The police department requested $378,000 for seven additional police officers, as well as $25,000 for said new officers’ uniforms, $315,000 for seven new fully-equipped vehicles, $542,000 for 13 fully-equipped replacement patrol vehicles and $49,000 for 45 tasers with holsters, batteries and cartridges. The town is instead considering $162,000 for three additional police officers, $135,000 for three vehicles, $11,000 for three police uniforms, $417,000 for 10 patrol vehicles and $32,000 for 30 tasers.

Among the fire department’s list of requests, one item was a request for $750,000 to remodel Fire Station 2, located at 110 Luden Drive. The town is allocating $500,000.

The street department’s needs included $195,000 for a street sweeper and $72,000 for a debris truck. The town is funding $33,000 and $12,000, respectively. Lisa Wallace, clerk-treasurer for the city, said those two items will be bought via lease-purchase over a period of five to seven years and therefore the town only needed to budget for the payment rather than the whole amount in the 2015 budget.

A $22,000 request from Parks and Recreation for a John Deere 5045D will be funded using 2014 HAT taxes and a $62,000 request for a Kubota Mini-Excavator with trailer will be funded by a donation from the stormwater fund budget. Parks and Recreation also requested $83,000 for two grounds maintenance technicians but the town is funding $41,000 for one technician.

HAT tax

The Ashley Riverfest appears to have been such a big hit; council members are trying to provide more money to the people who organized the event.

Amid the council’s expected revenue for the upcoming year is $3 million in local hospitality/accommodation taxes (HAT). Within that revenue, $300,000 is going to be distributed to different organizations in the town.

While organizations requested tens of thousands of dollars from the HAT, most will likely receive less than $10,000. For example, the Oakbrook Civic Association requested $11,000 but so far has been allocated $5,000 to help organize Ashley Riverfest; the first Riverfest was held in May and a second is being planned for 2015.

Councilman Bob Jackson said he would like to see more money allocated for the Oakbrook Civic Association.

“I think the Riverfest was very successful,” he said. “I think it will grow very quickly. I would definitely like to support this group.”

Most of the HAT tax, $1.5 million, is being transferred to the town’s general fund. Another $600,000 will be going toward the town’s new boutique hotel.

$200,000 is being allocated for the town’s sidewalks, though Councilman Aaron Brown would like more money to go toward improving sidewalks.

“I personally would like to see it go up to $250,000,” he said.

Business license rate

Another item discussed during Summerville’s budget retreat was decreasing the business license rate for class seven, which covers professionals such as doctors and lawyers, from $3.20 to $3.10. This was done after the business license rates committee reported comparing the town’s rates against Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston, Charleston and Goose Creek rates, and said class seven’s incremental rate and the declining rates were not in line with the other municipalities.

“We lowered our rate to be competitive with the cities around us,” Collins said.

National Guard Armory

The Towns’ Parks and Recreation Department recently hatched an idea to turn the empty National Guard Armory building on Hickory Street into a community recreational center.

During the budget retreat council members discussed ways to fund the project. One way was participating in a Section 108 Loan Guarantee program.

The town would commit $241,000 using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement funds and through the Section 108 Loan Guarantee program the town could get a loan of up to five times that value, which would allot the town $1.2 million. The town can pay back the loan in up to 20 years.

Collins would also like to explore using municipal impact fees and possibly other grants to pay for the project.

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