Greenville’s city council will spend $4.9 million of its $8 million budget surplus on affordable housing, public transportation, and neighborhood investment.
The surplus comes from the city’s requirement to put 20 percent of its budget in reserves for emergencies and auxiliary funds — $1.25 million of the funds have already been spent on repairs to City Hall.
The council on Monday approved $1.5 million for affordable housing by way of the Greenville Housing Fund, a nonprofit the council created to address the city’s shortage of affordable homes.
The approval came after four residents who spoke during the public comment period urged the council to dedicate more resources to affordable housing.
The council approved a $1 million infusion to Greenlink, which Mayor Knox White said can be leveraged as a local match against state and federal funds to total $3.75 million. The funds will provide a midlife overhaul to 12 existing Greenlink buses — extending their lives for another five years — buy two 30-foot diesel buses, buy two additional Proterra buses on top of two buses purchased with federal grant money, and buy three smaller cutaway buses, which will replace two existing ones.
The Greenlink funding is critical for the city’s aging bus fleet, according to Gary Shepard, director of public transportation.
“From day one, we’ve had an aging fleet that needs to be replaced,” Shepard told council members.
The increased bus fleet will result in an increase in operating costs on top of existing operating issues, and White said the city already increased transportation’s operating budget by $150,000 this year.
But Shepard recently told county council the transit system would need an additional $1.5 million in its operating budget by 2021 to maintain service because of diminished federal funding.
“In the weeks ahead, we’ll be looking at a way to increase the operational funding in addition to what we did earlier,” White said.
White said one option could be using the settlement funds from a lawsuit with the Greenville Health System. Legislators and county officials sued GHS because the nonprofit doesn’t pay property taxes. This year, a judge ruled in favor of a settlement allowing GHS to pay $2 million to the county and its cities.
White said the settlement has resulted in about $425,000 per year to the city, funds which could be used to boost the transit system’s operating budget.
County Council has also addressed Greenlink’s low operational budget in its meetings. The county provides $451,223 per year to its operations, while the city provides $599,098 plus $480,000 in contributed management services and $260,021 in hospitality tax money for trolleys.
City Council approved spending $1 million to neighborhood investment, which White said will go toward improved planning and infrastructure, including neighborhood and commercial corridors, facade improvements, sidewalks, and traffic light controls.
White said the city manager will be asked to make a plan proposal to the council in the near future, and the investment could help with an existing plan to improve the Wade Hampton Boulevard corridor.
“In our normal budget, we’ve boosted funding for all the neighborhood projects for about the third year in a row, which is about $1 million for sidewalks, road repaving, trails, and things like that. So it’s supplemental to that,” White said.
The council also approved $1.4 million as a local match to federal funds garnered for the Greenville Transit Authority facility.
White said after the allocations, there is still money left in the reserves in case of emergencies.
“The reason we’re doing all of this is a response to growth and to better manage growth in the city,” White said.
The city will take a final vote on the surplus allocations on Nov. 12.