Fort Mill Times

Tega Cay's new budget has some cuts

The city has a balanced budget.

For now.

But the budget of approximately $5 million features a contingency plan that nearly sits on empty. Once totaling more than $100,000, Tega Cay's emergency cash reserve under the new budget is less than $7,000.

That's a problem for one city council member.

"I can't support this," Tega Cay Councilman John Dervay said before the council voted on the budget. "This budget amendment takes us down to seven grand. If something goes bump in the night, that's all we got. This budget doesn't cut it."

The budget factors in some $600,000 city leaders expect to receive in business license fees during a time when the economy is spiraling downward.

"How much of that are we going to get?" Dervay asked. "We don't know. We're just halfway through (the fiscal year). Seven grand does not put us in a position that we can operate this city on."

Instead, he said, city leaders should have pushed a budget that included deeper cuts. Then Dervay stopped talking.

Seconds passed. No one in the audience spoke for or against the proposed budget.

Moments later, the budget received its second approving nod in a four to one vote. Dervay was the only council member who voted the measure down.

The city's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. City Manager Grant Duffield contends the newly amended budget is a panacea to keep Tega Cay operating in the black. To stop a projected shortfall, the council gave its preliminary approving nod to the amended budget after a nearly three-hour meeting last month.

Before the existing budget was tweaked, it had a contingency fund of $130,933. Under the new budget, the bare bones contingency fund reflects a mere $6,318. While there's little room for error, Duffield contends the city can recover if hit by an emergency.

City leaders can tap into a reserve account that holds $215,000 earmarked for the Stonecrest development. Stonecrest, a mixed-use community with homes and retail elements, was constructed as part of a developer agreement in which the developer was required to contribute a cash donation or land. The developer choose to give a cash donation - hence the $215,000.

Another option includes drawing money from the city's beach and swim center or taking out a loan not to exceed $400,000.

But, some residents have previously expressed dissatisfaction with the new budget. It calls for a mandated two-day furlough for all but four full time police dispatch employees, Duffield said. The plan also freezes salaries and removes a 4 percent cost of living raise from employees who have already received a raise this year.

Last week, Mayor Bob Runde held down a question and answer session during a meet and greet at York County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Topics included annexation, recreation and Tega Cay's budget woes.

The solution, Runde said, for what ails the city's budget rest in increasing taxes and padding the contingency fund.

"This next budget year will probably be the toughest we've had in years...," he said. "This year, we need to do a tax increase. Since we're limited, we need to build up our contingency fund."