City Council hears details of FY15 budget

  • Friday, April 25, 2014

Eileen Keithly/for South Strand News Georgetown City Council works on the budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

The City of Georgetown’s proposed 2014-2015 budget expenditures were described as “rather lean” by City Administrator Chris Carter at a City Council budget workshop Tuesday, as council members delved further into the city’s proposed $36.5 million budget.

As at a previous workshop, city expenditures on employee health insurance plans were a key focus on Tuesday. Employee health insurance premiums expected to increase by 28 percent.

“This is serious, this is our biggest expenditure,” Councilwoman Carol Jayroe said. After Councilman Ed Kimbrough asked what other cities are doing regarding premium increases, Carter responded, “You won’t see dependent coverage like this in any other city.”

The monthly premium for a single employee is $390.27, with the city paying $341.22, leaving the employee responsible for $49.05.

The monthly premium for a family, regardless of size, is $1,047.90, with the city paying $878.68 and the employee paying $169.22. Previously, several council members have said they are not inclined to raise employee contributions to their health insurance plans, mainly because of the impact on lower-income workers.

Carter said proposed 2014-2015 expenditures were a combination of requests by department heads and administration recommendations.

In making administrative recommendations, “I considered three things: available resources, prior policy direction from council, and items that were discussed in the Jan. 24 council workshop,” he said.

Carter urged council members to meet individually with him and Finance director Debra Bivens on specific expenditures.

Several recommendations were made regarding additional city personnel in the proposed budget.

In discussing the addition of two sanitation workers, Kimbrough was surprised that garbage was still being collected twice a week.

“I’ve lived many places, Atlanta, New York, Dallas, and they only collect the garbage once a week in those cities,” he said.

Councilman Rudolph Bradley reminded the council that once-a-week collection had been tried, but it was not a success.

“Buildup of garbage is a health risk to the community,” he said.

The council asked for the opinion of Public Service director Jonathan Heald, who said he believes twice-a-week garbage collection is necessary.

A general discussion of proposed capital improvements quickly turned specific when a concerned Councilwoman Peggy Wayne pointed out, “There are ditches in this city that are six feet deep. Somebody is going to fall in one and can’t get out, or worse, someone could drown.”

With the council in agreement, Carter said, “If it’s that important, we can add money back in and discuss it on May 6.”

Bivens explained how information technology changes would impact the budget. Looking to move toward a cloud-based system, Bivens explained the city had received seven proposals and her office was just beginning to compare “apples to apples.”

Both Bivens and Carter agreed that moving to the cloud-based system from the current server system would benefit the city. Bivens will report back to the council after her office has had sufficient time to review the various proposals.

Electrical Department head Alan Loveless gave the Council an overview and explanation of what it would take for the city to implement an underground utility project. Projecting that such a project could cost between $25 and $30 million, Loveless explained that some sort of plan needs to be in place to move toward the goal of underground utilities.

Mayor Jack Scoville suggested that for the time being, “We should encourage new construction in older neighborhoods to put their utilities underground.”

Council members also discussed the city’s obligation for ongoing maintenance at the Kaminski House, and agreed to become more involved with the board at the Winyah Auditorium to try and make the auditorium a valuable asset for the city.

The council must adopt a 2014-15 budget before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. The next workshop is scheduled for May 6.

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