Affordable Housing increase requested as council combs through budget

mmcnab@islandpacket.comMay 20, 2014 

Bluffton Town Council made few changes to a proposed budget for 2015 at its workshop Tuesday.

The $19.64 million budget, outlined by Bluffton town manager Anthony Barrett on May 13, will look nearly identical to the one town council will vote on next month.

Council members asked for only one major change, the addition of $100,000 to the town's Affordable Housing Committee budget for a new housing initiative proposed earlier in May.

Overall, the budget plan represented a $2.29 million reduction from the previous year's budget and would not include a tax increase, Barrett said during the original presentation.

Councilman Fred Hamilton asked for the housing increase. The Affordable Housing Committee's initiative aims to replace mobile homes around town with permanent, affordable ones.

The committee plans to offer residents and developers designs for 24 modular homes, which are prefabricated and typically assembled in sections. Residents could also use financial assistance the town would seek through grants to help pay for the homes' construction.

Roughly $10,000 of the $100,000 increase will be rolled over from the 2014 budget, according to Shawn Leininger, the town's assistant director of growth management. Another $15,000 could be shifted from money allotted to the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office's Career Criminal Prosecution Team.

Both Mayor Lisa Sulka and councilman Larry Toomer questioned the effectiveness of the prosecution team Tuesday. Sulka also noted that no one from the Solicitor's Office made a proposal to council about money requested in the 2015 budget.

The town would need to find about $75,000 to meet the rest of that request, so Barrett was asked to find out where money in the budget could be reallocated. Councilman Ted Huffman urged council to consider grant opportunities for the committee, as well.

Sulka and other town council members asked about cutting plans to purchase several new vehicles for the town and police department. Shirley Freeman, assistant town manager of finance and administration, said those cuts wouldn't result in extra budget leeway because the vehicles are purchased with financing.

Council will vote on the budget June 10.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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