Town revenue and expenses should be up in the coming year.
The tax rate won’t be.
Fort Mill Town Council passed first reading Monday night for a $40.44 million budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The projected figure is about 12 percent higher than the current fiscal year.
Dennis Pieper, town manager, helped create a budget to pay for new expenses without bumping up the tax rate.
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“We’re staying the same,” he said. “We’re at 86 mils. This is our eighth year being at 86 mils.”
A $15.52 million general fund is up more than $2 million from the current budget. It includes 25 new full-time and two half-time positions, a dozen firefighters and three police officers among them. Employees will receive a 3 percent cost of living increase.
The general fund will pay for 16 vehicles, from police cars to a garbage truck. More than $400,000 will go toward renovation and other associated costs for the former Comporium building at 210 Tom Hall St. that will become the new Town Hall.
Four utility positions will be added in the $19.35 million gross revenue fund budget. Costs there range from a more than $10 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade to a $350,000 water tank design, to $30,000 for a master plan update.
Other town costs include $2 million for a new fire station and $1.2 million for property acquisition. The town will put $130,000 from its hospitality tax collection into the general fund for the South Carolina Strawberry Festival.
Chantay Bouler, finance director for the town, projects hospitality tax revenue at $375,000. The revenue comes from a charge on food and drink, and must go toward tourism-generating activities.
“We’ve been doing really, really well this year so far,” Bouler said.
Council also voted Monday to list two town properties as surplus, annex more than three acres on Haire Road at Fort Mill Parkway and annex two properties combining for an acre on Sutton Road. All votes require a second reading.
One of the surplus properties, long owned by the town and a former trash dump site, is more than 51 acres known as the Foxwood property. The site has a thin line of right-of-way between two homes.
“It has extremely limited access,” said Mayor Guynn Savage. “We’re just maintaining it.”
Access to the site all but prohibits the town using it for anything foreseeable.
“It’s between two houses,” Pieper said. “It’s not very good access at all.”
The other site, on Tom Hall Street, is less than half an acre. Council voted not to make a .11-acre property beside Unity Presbyterian Cemetery surplus, given possible future needs there.
The two Sutton Road projects up for annexation sit near Love’s Travel Stop. They also sit near the new roundabout there, which gives Councilwoman Lisa McCarley pause despite a zoning change with annexation going from residential to commercial use.
“I’ve got great concern making that property commercial when more trucks could be coming through there,” she said.
McCarley and Councilwoman Trudie Heemsoth voted against the Sutton Road annexations. Joe Cronin, town planning director, said his staff almost always goes with the comprehensive plan recommendation for an area when recommending for or against a zoning change. The comp plan calls for residential use there, but the truck stop beside it complicated the question.
“We didn’t see the highest and best use of that property as residential,” Cronin said.
Cronin said coming zoning rules likely would prohibit something else like the truck stop.
“It likely would be retail, restaurant, something of a more traditional commercial use,” he said.
The roundabout, an item of contention Council members get complaints about, was needed when the Mason’s Bend subdivision came in and couldn’t get right-of-way to line up a traditional intersection. It may not be permanent.
“If Sutton is ever widened, that roundabout would likely go away,” Cronin said.
McCarley said a fast food restaurant or other commercial use could create problems in the meantime.
“It’s an awkward intersection already,” she said.