Mauldin gets creative

Budget shortfalls mean new ideas for city

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Every day, Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research and the neighboring Millennium Campus at the edge of Mauldin’s city limits are bringing new business and an increased potential for generating new revenue for the municipality.

And while the city has weathered its share of store closings during the past year, leaders here say residential building construction is beginning to make a resurgence. In the past month, at least three new commercial establishments have opened up along U.S. 276, one of the main traffic arteries through the center of town.

But all of that combined isn’t enough to ward off what City Administrator Trey Eubanks said will be some tough decisions as the City Council puts together an operating budget for the next fiscal year.

Discussions are under way on a proposed budget for fiscal 2010-2011 that if approved will require a combination of some serious belt-tightening and innovative ideas to balance.

As presented to the City Council, the budget proposal calls for next year’s spending plan to cut finances by $954,738.

Layoffs aren’t part of that cut, Eubanks said. But one and a half positions on the city’s workforce will be eliminated. One job in the city’s public works department won’t be filled, and one half of another position will be absorbed by changes in the organizational structure of the administrative and finance departments.

There won’t be any money for new capital expenditures, Eubanks said.

Because, even while signs are starting to surface that at least the local economy is improving, it isn’t likely to have an impact on the upcoming fiscal year.

“There are definitely going to be some challenges,” Eubanks said.

For 2010-2011, business license fee revenues are projected to be $126,604 or 6.7 percent less than the current year, Eubanks said. Property taxes are projected to be down $419,215 or 7.5 percent. Vehicle taxes account for $135,596 of that amount.

Permit fees are projected to be $89,558 or 37 percent less than the current year, and state revenues are forecasted to be $152,323 or 33 percent less than the current year.

Meanwhile, expenses are increasing.

Landfill fees are poised to go up again, and utility and gas and insurance costs are projected to rise, Eubanks said.

But the City Council has been presented with two ways of generating the necessary revenue to balance the upcoming fiscal year’s budget without tapping reserves. Both involve changes to the city’s fee structure.

One would increase the current franchise fee for Duke Power and Laurens Electric customers from 3 to 5 percent, Eubanks said.

In addition, a new Pay As You Throw solid waste fee would be implemented.

The franchise fee increase would bring in an additional $545,910 in new revenue. Estimates are that change would cost the average Duke Power or Laurens Electric customer living in Mauldin about $2 more per month.

If a Pay As You Throw solid waste fee – which would involve purchasing special garbage bags directly from the city – would generate an estimated $583,358. Meanwhile, estimates are that the program would subsequently reduce landfill costs through recycling by $28,000.

That’s because local residents would have an incentive to recycle, Eubanks said. The more aluminum, glass, plastics or paper removed from a household’s solid waste stream, the fewer garbage bags they would need to purchase.

 

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