Beaufort residents are one vote away from seeing their storm water rates rise from $65 a year to $105 after the first of two votes planned by city council to bring revenues into line with costs.
The initial vote came at a council meeting Tuesday night.
"This is the expense of living in the Lowcountry, and this is the expense of living in an urban place in the Lowcountry," city manager Scott Dadson said.
Council heard from city staff in June about three options for stormwater fees that would bring in from $230,903 to $305,355.
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The options were:
Council gave initial approval to the first option Tuesday night. A second vote on the fee increase must be made by the end of July so the change can be included on tax bills prepared by the county.
If the fee is increased, the city would not have to supplement stormwater maintenance -- ongoing and preventative -- from the general fund as it has in the past.
The money from the general fund could be used instead for purchases city council cut from this fiscal year budget, such as a $400,000 firetruck. Those cuts were needed to balance the spending plan before it went into effect July 1. The $15.6 million budget was approved June 26 with no tax increase.
Council also cut a $155,000 streetsweeper that Public Works Director Isiah Smalls said is needed. If the stormwater fee increase is approved, it would raise enough money to pay for a sweeper and the $108,547 difference between stormwater revenues and costs, according to city Finance Director Kathy Todd.
Additionally, Dadson said staff is anticipating $3.8 million in projects will be needed during the next 10 years. Those projects will be done as money is available, he said.
Resident Andy Kinghorn said he supports the stormwater increase, especially in light of the projects and work that needs to be done, .
"I want the public works department to have every bit of money they need to do the work appropriately," he said.