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By Heather Walters
Walterboro residents will not likely see a tax increase in the coming year, but residents will see a few changes, from improvements at the downtown waterfall to internal changes in inspection services.
Walterboro officials and Walterboro City Council are heavily involved in balancing Walterboro’s 2017-2018 budget. This proposed budget summary has the city preparing to operate on a $11.418 million dollar budget. This preliminary figure does not include a property tax increase for city residents. There will also not be any business license increases or increases to city sewer and water rates, according to documents provided by city officials.
Walterboro City Council met on Tuesday for a budget workshop, during which they openly discussed the city’s plans and how to financially meet those needs.
At this point, the proposed budget is only a draft. However, city council is expected to receive first reading by city council at its upcoming May city council meeting. A second, and final, reading is expected to occur during the city council’s June council meeting, said city Manager Jeff Molinari.
The proposed budget draft includes no substantial changes for city residents’ pockets. It does, however, list several large projects that city leaders are preparing to embark upon, including renovations to the town’s waterfall in its downtown area and an inspection of the city’s overall sewer system. According to Molinari, repairs on the city’s waterfall will include replacing the water filtration system and installing a new disinfectant system.
The second change included in the city’s upcoming budget is within the city’s building department. City officials are preparing to contract out building inspection services, removing it from an internal function of city employees. “We are going to be contracting out building inspection services. Property code enforcement will be done by a city employee,” he said.
While residents will not have any increases in their daily expenses, the proposed budget does include a 2.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums for city residents. There is also an “anticipated” 2-percent increase in the amount that the city must pay into the S.C. State Retirement program.
Employees with the City of Walterboro will also likely receive a proposed 1-percent cost-of-living increase as part of their annual salary.
As for the city’s elected leaders, neither the Mayor of Walterboro nor the City Council members will receive any salary increase, as part of the proposed budget.
The only substantial personnel addition to the city is a new assistant city manager position, which the city council has discussed during its last several council meetings.
Also in the proposed upcoming budget is the plans for the city’s expansion. According to a draft of the proposed budget, city officials are moving forward with the renovations of its newly-purchased building at 300 Hampton Street. This building will be converted into a building for the city’s administrative offices.
Additionally, city officials are preparing to buy a new truck for yard debris removal. This is listed as part of the city’s Public Works budget.
Meanwhile, the Walterboro Police Department is asking for two new police vehicles and for the city’s Code Enforcement Officer to be moved underneath the umbrella of the city’s police department.
Lastly, city officials are including in its proposed budget the cost of “investigating” the city’s sewage system. Additional details of this inspection are forthcoming.
More exact monetary figures for each of the city’s proposed line items are forthcoming, as officials move forward with their budget discussions.