Bluffton Town Council gave initial approval Tuesday to a $16.3-million budget for 2013-14 that maintains existing services and increases staff slightly without a property tax increase.
The proposal, drafted by Town Manager Anthony Barrett, seeks money for May River water quality improvements, continued streetscape upgrades in old town, and sewer line extensions on Buck Island Road.
Town employees would get a 3 percent raise starting in December -- the first such increase in four years. The plan also seeks a new part-time public information officer.
The proposal is almost 9 percent less than the current budget, a decrease town staff attributed to lower spending on capital improvements.
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A workshop on the proposal is set for 4:30 p.m. May 21 at town hall. Councilors are expected to make final changes and adopt the 2013 fiscal year budget June 12. It will takes effect July 1.
Unlike previous budgets, the proposal creates a dedicated fund for stormwater operations that includes everything from employee costs to related capital spending. That fund would have a $1.87-million budget, compared to $2.56 million for capital improvements and $10.51 million for the general fund.
The change, Barret said, was to make each separate budget "as self supporting as possible" to relieve pressures on the general fund.
Mayor Lisa Sulka praised Barrett for offering a plan that kept taxes flat, and predicted the final version would differ little from what was presented.
"When someone comes here, as you will see, and says 'I would like this, this and this,' the answer is going to be 'no,'" she said. "I mean it's got to be. We are lean and mean."