2015 Beaufort budget to get first vote, discussion continues on SCE&G special fee

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 27, 2014 

SCEG.COM

Funding for city operations and for putting utility wires underground are among the topics Beaufort City Council will tackle during meetings Tuesday night.

Residents will get a chance to give their opinions on the fiscal year 2015 budget during a 7 p.m. public hearing. City Council will take its initial vote on the $16.87 million budget later during the meeting.

A second and final vote is tentatively scheduled for June 10.

City staff presented the proposed budget for 2015 -- $705,820 less than what department heads requested -- in April.

The proposed budget includes spending cuts and tax increases to offset expected revenue losses of more than $940,000 combined for the current and next fiscal years.

Of that, $257,000 is for shortfall at the end of this fiscal year, which city manager Scott Dadson said is from a combination of lower property values from the county-wide property reassessment and a lower tax collection rate.

He is proposing a temporary 3.72 "deficit mill" to make up that amount. That deficit mill will be voted on for the first time Tuesday and a second time when the final budget vote is taken.

A 5 p.m. work session before the regular meeting will address a potential fee increase for S.C. Electric and Gas customers. A second and final vote is expected at a special meeting June 3.

The increase could be 7 percent for up to 10 years for 160 customers in a special franchise fee district, 3 percent for about 4.5 years for all 15,000 customers in the city, or some other variation.

The fee is so SCE&G can recoup $2.8 million it is expected to spend to put wires underground along Boundary Street as part of the city's project to improve the corridor.

Putting wires underground is part of a $26.8 million project to narrow lanes, insert medians with plants, and add sidewalks and bike paths on Boundary Street. The city is paying to install an underground utility conduit.

City Council will also discuss a reforestation fee when trees are removed and procedures for approving vending carts in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park during the work session.

The voting meeting will also include changes to descriptions of historic properties, which will allow more properties to be eligible for a tax incentive for rehabilitation.

Love House Ministries is proposing to sell 0.144 acres of land near 1140 Ribaut Road, Love House's Community Bowling Center, to the city for $33,000. The city would also restripe the bowling alley parking lot, add a sidewalk and do landscaping along Ribaut Road.

The purchase is related to the fire station the city intends to build on neighboring property.

City Council will also vote on applying for a $12,116 Justice Assistance Grant and requests related to the Beaufort Water Festival.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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