Beaufort residents will likely pay higher stormwater fees next year as council continues to avoid instituting a $35 vehicle fee or delaying purchases in order to balance the 2012-13 fiscal year budget.
Residential stormwater fees could rise from $65 a year to as high as $105 a year.
The fiscal year starts July 1, giving council until the end of the month to approve the $16.1 million budget. A final vote is expected Tuesday. Without either cuts or fee and tax increases, the city would need to dip into its fund balance, or savings, to the tune of $556,680.
Council learned during Tuesday's work session that a decision on stormwater fees could be made as late as the end of July. In that case, council could approve a balanced budget next week that does not include $582,000 in purchases -- a fire truck, a street sweeper and a pickup truck -- and amend the budget later to include those purchases, city manager Scott Dadson said.
Among additional expenses in the budget is a 3-percent cost-of-living increase for employees that, combined with a hike in state retirement fund contributions, adds up to about $403,961.
An initial proposal to levy a $35 road-service fee for all vehicles registered in the city would have netted about $313,390, but council tabled that idea last week and has given no indication it will revisit it.
Commercial and other enterprises pay rates based on the $65 yearly fee residents pay. Stormwater fees do not cover the full cost of stormwater maintenance, finance director Kathy Todd said. The city takes money from the general fund to make up the approximately $260,000 deficit.
Todd prepared three options for stormwater fee increases.
Todd prepared the third option because council members, including Mike Sutton, have expressed concern that the formula is not fair to businesses
A public hearing and two votes would be required in July before any fee increase could go into effect.