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City leaders propose $15M budget for 2018

Post Date:11/07/2017 1:32 PM

Index Journal

By:  ADAM BENSON

Greenwood city leaders are proposing a 2018 budget that would not give workers a cost of living increase but keep the mill rate steady for the fourth straight year.

The $15 million spending plan, which remains in draft form, marks a 3 percent decrease from current levels, with fewer dollars allocated for the police department and administration accounting for much of the difference.

“This budget represents a team effort of all departments to contain costs and make tough decisions about how to continue to provide important services to our citizens with limited funds,” City Finance Director Steffanie Dorn wrote in her introduction to the budget.

If City Council approves the budget as it’s written, it would set a property tax rate of 110.3 mills in 2018, keeping it at the same place it’s been since 2015.

That’s a key figure, since property taxes account for 36 percent of the city’s revenue. Officials project a 2018 property tax collection of $5.38 million, a slight downturn from this year.

“Over the last six years, our property values have only increased by five percent, which makes it difficult to keep up with the increasing costs of maintaining basic city services,” Dorn said.

Continuing a trend, city leaders anticipate picking up more hospitality tax dollars in 2018. The collection amount has jumped by 49 percent from 2007 to 2016, and officials anticipate a 4 percent jump next year.

On April 25, Gov. Henry McMaster signed H. 3726, which made significant changes to the state’s pension system. Under the plan, workers and their employers began paying an additional half of a percent on July 1.

That means workers in the main plan will contribute 9.2 percent of their salaries while officers and firefighters in the smaller, law enforcement plan will contribute 9.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the rates paid by their taxpayer-funded employers will increase to 12.1 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively.

Dorn said the adjustment made an additional cost-of-living increase difficult to justify.

“Based on our 2018 budgeted figures, for every 70 cents an employee receives in salary, we are spending an additional 30 cents in benefits,” she said.

A first reading of the budget is set for Nov. 20, with a public hearing and final vote slated on Dec. 18.