Enquirer Herald

Council OKs water, sewer hike, park upgrades

The town of Clover will continue the second phase of work on New Centre Park and increase water and sewer rates under a spending plan approved Monday by the Town Council.

No one spoke during a public hearing that preceded the council’s final vote to approve the budget, which includes a $4.8 million general fund, plus $387,000 in capital projects and a $2.8 million enterprise fund for the town’s water and sewer service.

The budget, which begins with the fiscal year starting July 1, is based on an increase in the town’s property-tax rates; however, the tax increase traditionally has been separate from the budget vote, and was not included in Monday’s vote.

For an owner-occupied home, the proposed property-tax increase would mean $16 more each year in property taxes for each $100,000 in assessed home value.

Town Manager Allison Harvey has said the council is scheduled for an initial vote on the property-tax rate at its July 13 meeting, with the final vote Aug. 10.

Councilman Wes Spurrier, the only one to comment on the budget, said he was concerned the town was “budgeting so much of our surplus” to balance the budget.

Spurrier said the town was using $227,000 from its fund balance to balance the budget, a practice he said the town has followed the past few years.

However, Spurrier said, the town hasn’t used the budgeted surplus money because it has received enough revenue to cover its needs. “I put my faith in our town administrator,” he said.

The capital budget includes $185,000 to begin work on phase two of New Centre Park. Harvey has said that will include construction drawings, engineering and as much of the work as the town has money to fund.

The phase two improvements include a splash pad, bathrooms and a larger picnic facility, as well as an amphitheater. Harvey has said she expects some costs for the park’s phase-two work to extend into the 2016-17 budget year.

The council approved a water and sewer rate increase for the second consecutive year, based on the recommendations of a consultant.

Town officials said the town was losing money on its water and sewer services and needed to bring its rates in line with actual costs.

Rates vary based on usage and the size of the water connection. Under the new rates, a typical home that uses 4,000 gallons of water would pay $2.34 more each month, or $28 more each year.

The council also approved a $1 monthly increase, from $15 to $16, in the town’s sanitation and landfill fee, on residents’ water and sewer bill. Town officials said the county plans a corresponding increase.

The only new position is $38,000 for a recreation coordinator, the third such coordinator in the recreation department. That job is planned to be added in October.

Town officials discussed the need to hire paid firefighters and decided to do further study. Clover has a fire chief with all-volunteer firefighters, and town officials have discussed moving to a paid fire department.

The proposed spending plan includes 3 percent salary increases for town employees, which includes a 2.1 percent cost of living increase and .9 percent for merit or salary adjustments. It also includes $34,000 for the lease purchase of a new garbage truck.

Other capital projects in the budget include $95,000 to be split between repairs at the former Armory building purchased by the town for a recreation center, and improvements to a downtown parking lot.

The capital budget also includes renovations to the former Town Hall building and the old Clover Rescue Squad building, which the council discussed purchasing.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077