Town budget includes rate increases for utilities, garbage

By Kevin Boozer

June 15, 2014

PROSPERITY — Prosperity Town Council supports a recycling program that will provide curbside recyclables containers for residents beginning July 1.

After a six-month education campaign by Advance Recycling, the actual collection of recyclables begins. The plan will be implemented starting July 1 but cost increases to trash collection will not go into effect until January 2015.

“I have been on council around six years and (back when I started) we did not look at raising rates or look toward the future. But in looking at the reserves (and reserve spending) in the town, we got to the point where we finally had to do something. I don’t like rate increases but I applaud council because (sometimes there comes a time when you have to),” Mayor Pro Tem Chad Hawkins said during last Tuesday’s called meeting.

He said infrastructure needs such as power lines or sewer systems beneath roads take money to upkeep.

Prosperity Mayor Derek Underwood, while saying he was sympathetic to people’s plight on fixed incomes, also reminded council how co-workers from Chapin, Lexington and Irmo tell him how low Prosperity rates are (even when factoring in proposed increases).

“We must be accountable to the people that put us here,” Underwood said. “If services go up then we must pass that on to the public to be responsible (stewards).”

Some of the changes under the new budget:

• Water, sewer and electrical rates will increase under the 2014-15 Prosperity budget.

• Water will increase 10 percent while sewer rates increase 7 percent. Council said the increase was due to increased rates at Newberry water and sewer and to increases presented last year to town council that were not passed on to residents.

• Town electric rates will increase 5 percent.

• An extra $2 will be charged for residential garbage pick up. The extra funds will pay for recycling pickup every two weeks.

• Changing the town billing clerk position into a full-time position.

• $45,000 is budgeted as a utility reserve fund and to help with utility upgrades as needed.

• The more pressing need was for substation upgrades costing $48,000. Mike Hawkins said town utilities coordinator Ed West felt like funding for the substation was his priority at this time but noted the town can spend $50,000 per year to keep systems running and updating.’

Increases to the budget were prompted by an increased contribution required from the South Carolina retirement system and a three percent pay increase for town employees.

$519,650 was the general budget for fiscal year 2013-14 and utilities were$1,992,200 for a total budget of $2,456,800.

The first reading of the budget passed 4-0. Council member Allen Gallman was absent.

Hawkins said funds had been shifted around in the budget so the town has a $34,4000 fund to use as matching funds for sidewalks.

The total budget for 2014-15 is $2,456,800, a 3.64 percent increase. Millage remains at 37.6 and the budget does not include a tax increase.

In other business:

• Robert Martin reported on tree boxes to remove potential trip hazards caused by tree stumps. West said to cut down the stumps as far as possible and cover them with concrete as a temporary measure. Council noted a more permanent solution could involve tree boxes and evergreens.

• At next week’s town council meeting the council agreed to discuss the town sign. Drawings should be ready by then.

• Council reminded those present that the Kibler Street portion behind Roma’s is now one way.

• Prosperity town council next meets June 17 at 7 p.m.