By Gregg Bragg for The Island Eye News
The Isle of Palms Ways & Means Committee meeting of June 18 started like those before it. There were parliamentary procedures to be observed, minutes of previous meetings to approve, and emerging business to be broached.
The July 1 deadline to complete the budget for fiscal year 2020 was only two weeks away. So a fifth draft of the City’s spending/earning plan dominated the agenda.
Last month’s discussion saw an array of possibilities floated including; changing assumptions, cutting services, obligating vendors to undertake their own repairs at the marina shops, slow walking open job requisitions, and the specter of increasing IOP’s relatively low millage rates/property taxes were broached.
Councilmember and Ways & Means Committee Chair Jimmy Ward proffered a solution which would balance the budget without shorting amenities residents should be able to expect.
Ward and the budget task force suggested deferring completion of the City’s Phase III drainage outfalls until the 2021 fiscal year budget to avoid an increase in property taxes on residents. Councilmember Ted Kinghorn chimed in to say there was already a millage increase baked into next year’s budget. Due to Charleston County’s ten-year review of property values, which would result from the county’s reassessing property values every ten years, Kinghorn made the point there was no need to raise them twice. City Administrator Desiree Fragoso also chimed in to mitigate concern about delays in the project.
Fragoso acknowledged concerns about flooding on the island, but treated attendees and councilmembers to a bit of common sense. She observed the design and permitting process, coupled with negotiating with state agencies, would take at least a year to get all the necessary approvals. Consequently, she concluded the project would not be delayed beyond the original dates for the project, and a balanced budget could be enacted on time without cutting services to residents.
Everyone seemed to agree, and the motion to accept the fifth version of the budget was accepted.
Some miscellaneous comments ensued including;
- The state retirement fund is a long term debt that reflects an estimate of the town’s obligation over time. It is not the lump sum owed to the state, despite the way it sticks out in budget documents (unless every state employee and every employee in every municipality in the state retired today), to summarize an observation made by councilmember Randy Bell
- The observation that the budget did not reflect monies the City would receive from permitting and license fees generated by the new hotel going in at Wild Dunes
- That income from tourism has been trending higher the last several years
- That fees from building permits and licensing have also been trending higher
Councilmember Kinghorn quipped, “You had me at no new taxes,” as the vote was called. The budget passed leaving just enough time for a public hearing and second reading, before going into effect on July 1.
Exhausted by months of wrangling, the rest of the meeting was a sprint to the finish line, but there were more budget issues to consider. Councilmember Ferencz suggested removing a $15,000 line item reserved for “performance evaluation” software from the 2020 budget, and found a smattering of conditional support from other councilmembers.
Councilmember Bell argued the $15,000 was only a place holder, and did not necessarily commit the City to spending the allocated funds.
There is plenty of free software available, he said, and suggested the City try some of those before actually incurring the expense of the budgeted amount. A chorus of other members nodded their approval, and a corresponding motion was made to keep the line item and budget in the form previously approved, and also passed.
For more information, visit the city’s website, IOP.net.