Politics & Government

Bluffton Town Council approves 2015 budget; affordable housing gets boost

In the span of a month, Bluffton's Affordable Housing Committee tripled its 2015 budget after Town Council gave it $90,000 more in the final spending plan it approved Tuesday than town staff offered in May.

However, the overall $19.7 million budget is about $2.2 million less than the one for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. As a result, property taxes won't rise, town manager Anthony Barrett said.

The Affordable Housing Committee will receive $150,000 from the town in 2015, three times as much as the $50,000 proposed by Barrett at council's May 13 meeting. In addition to the $90,000 added in the final budget, $10,000 that was allocated to the committee but not spent in the current fiscal year will be rolled over to complete the $100,000 increase.

The final plan approved Tuesday included about $100,400 more in expenditures than the budget Barrett first proposed. Nearly $52,000 of that difference will be covered by funds left over from 2014, according to assistant town manager of finance and administration Shirley Freeman. The rest will be taken from small cuts made to other departments, Freeman said Tuesday.

Councilman Fred Hamilton, the Affordable Housing Committee's chairman, said the increase would help fund a program to replace mobile homes with affordable, permanent houses.

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.Council members also debated allowing food trucks and certain types of guided tours within town limits during workshops Tuesday.

Deputy town manager Marc Orlando said the town's current code prohibits motorized mobile vendors, but allows non-motorized ones. That would exclude things like food trucks, but allow vendors working from push carts. Orlando said the current law would make ice cream trucks illegal, causing Barrett to quip they would have "50 kids for public comment at the next meeting."

Mayor Lisa Sulka said the council would likely take action soon to allow ice cream trucks, but more discussion would be needed on allowing food trucks and other motorized vendors.

Orlando said the town doesn't have laws regulating the use of pedicabs or horse drawn carriages in the town, or on how to handle mobile tours within Bluffton.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

Related content: