Summerville 2014 budget

A public hearing and final vote on the 2014 town of Summerville budget will take place at the council meeting on Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall complex council chambers, 200 N. Main St.

To view the budget, go to www.summerville.sc.us and click on “Budget Ordinance and Financial Statements.”

SUMMERVILLE — The last thing you might think the loquacious Mayor Bill Collins would need is a mouthpiece, but a public information/events coordinator is the new thing in the town’s 2014 budget. And naturally, there’s more to be told about the job.

Overall, the $26.7 million budget includes no new taxes or fees. Gradually improving revenues have leaders cautiously optimistic, so the budget is about $2 million more than the current year, with about $2.2 million budgeted to be moved from reserves in case revenues don’t increase enough to pay for it.

The traditionally conservative town carries reserves far deeper than state guidelines, and councils historically have used reserves to balance budgets, funds that remained at least partially unused as revenues came in.

Five new positions will be added, including two building inspectors and an engineering technician. Then there’s the $45,000-$50,000 per year public relations job, paid for out of tourism taxes.

Collins sees the employee handling a range of responsibilities, from managing the town website to press releases, as well as keeping residents better informed about how it deals with issues such as skateboarding in the town parking garage. But a big job focus will be event coordinating, he said.

Collins would like to have the town put on four or five concerts in the park per year, and maybe movies, too, as nearby municipalities do. He wants the employee to work closely with the newly annexed Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site to add to and expand on programs already there.

It’s all part of the mayor’s drive to expand tourism opportunities — and revenue — in the town.

“I think most cities our size have a person like this,” Collins said.

Councilman Bob Jackson doesn’t agree with the split focus. He’d rather have the employee strictly handle public information.

“I don’t feel the town should expand into events planning. I think we have enough organizations that do that,” he said.

The takeaway line, though, is Collins will continue to speak for himself.

“I don’t expect this person to be my mouthpiece,” he said chuckling. “I may be getting advice from her or him, like it might be better if I kept my mouth shut. But that would be unsolicited.”

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.