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City of Sumter budget's 1st reading does not include tax hike

Manager: More work to do still, millage increase not done deal

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 5/23/19

The City of Sumter is approaching the deadline to finalize its fiscal year 2020 budget and may be able to balance the $68.7 million spending plan without raising taxes after all.

Finance Department staff brought the remaining difference between …

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City of Sumter budget's 1st reading does not include tax hike

Manager: More work to do still, millage increase not done deal

Posted

The City of Sumter is approaching the deadline to finalize its fiscal year 2020 budget and may be able to balance the $68.7 million spending plan without raising taxes after all.

Finance Department staff brought the remaining difference between projected revenues and expenditures down to $34,768 by Tuesday's public hearing and first reading of two on the budget from the $99,000 deficit it was at after a May 14 budget workshop and the $725,055 mark as of an April 23 workshop.

The numbers discussed during the most recent workshop included a two-mill increase on the city's debt service, which would be applied to the monies borrowed to build the new Public Safety Complex and complete the city's fiber loop, bringing in an additional estimated $269,224 in revenue.

City Manager Deron McCormick said the finance staff has been able to make "multiple minor changes" to both revenues and expenditures to get the deficit down to what it is now even without increasing the millage rate. He said a mill increase is still possible because the final budget has not been approved but that the council and mayor have prioritized raising taxes as a last resort.

"There is still additional work to do," he said.

Until a final approval is voted on ideally in June, he said, anything is subject to change. He also noted council members Calvin Hastie and Thomas Lowery were not at Tuesday's meeting and had not yet had a chance to publicly discuss the change for first reading.

As proposed, the budget includes a 1% increase in total revenues and a 2% increase in total expenditures with a millage rate remaining at 98 for operations and four for bonds.

The first draft of the budget is the most conservative, McCormick said, regarding revenues such as county shared services and local government fund monies from the Statehouse, which is why staff has been able to adjust for more than originally allotted.

All areas of the city's operations have been balanced since the first draft except the general fund, which contains most facets of the city except water and sewer funds, accommodations, stormwater, hospitality and victim's assistance.

Council members and city staff discussed at the May 14 workshop the idea of creating a position for a litter officer. While it was not included in Tuesday's first public reading of the budget, McCormick said he is talking with the county and looking at other municipalities to model after and hopes they will be able to create the position for this upcoming budget year.

He said staff did not receive much feedback about the potential of raising taxes. One person spoke during the public hearing, thanking the city for not raising the millage rate but pleading for roads and highways to be repaired throughout the city.

Mayor Joe McElveen replied that most roads - he estimated 75% - in the city are owned and maintained by the state, including "almost every major thoroughfare."

Taxes have not been raised in the city since fiscal year 2008, when it went from 96 to 105. It went from 105 to 103 in 2010 and to 102, the level is it at now, in 2013.