During the Town of Mount Pleasant’s Budget Committee meeting on May 12, Town Administrator Eric DeMoura reviewed the goal of the town’s new budget proposal.
This year the town operated on a $235,533,010 budget. Prior to COVID-19 the 2021 budget proposal was for $112,473,303.
DeMoura explained much of the funding for employee support has been placed in a non-departmental reserve account to help plug revenue holes. He also explained the town’s current hiring freeze will save the town over a million dollars. He added that the other largest adjustment was revenue for the hospitality and accommodations tax projects the town had budgeted for in the next fiscal year as those are taking a financial hit.
The new proposed budget for Mount Pleasant for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 is $111,715,803.
DeMoura explained that given the uncertainty of what’s ahead, the goal of the amended budget was to maintain the services that residents in the Town of Mount Pleasant expect.
“It’s the goal of this budget that our citizens and business owners do not see or feel any disruption in their services. The amended budget proposal positions the town quite well financially to successfully manage reductions that we see in revenue. I propose to do that through a multi-leveled approach,” DeMoura said.
Marcy Cotov, the town’s chief financial officer, explained that all of the town’s revenues would continue to be closely monitored. She said that some general fund operational revenues may be delayed or adjusted.
She explained any revenues delayed by the state, such as accommodations and hospitality taxes will be monitored as they are impacted by COVID-19 during the 2021 Fiscal Year.
DeMoura explained the first level of the FY 2021 Budget approach would be to reserve $3.67 million, or 4% of the town’s operating budget by:
- Postponing implementation of the classification and compensation study the town’s been undergoing — $817,000
- Postponing July 1 merit increases, or pay for performance for town employees — $1.6 million
- Continuing a hiring freeze for non-essential positions — $1.2 million
- Reducing the transfer to the Debt Fund — $60,000
The second level would be to reduce stress on special revenues by $2.55 million:
- Hospitality Tax
- Defer FY 2021 Funding
- Carolina Park, Phase 4 — $200,000
- Park West pool renovation — $550,000
- Place existing project on hold
- Public Safety Training Facility $1.5 million
- Accommodations Tax
- Partially defer FY 2021 funding
- Medal of Honor -(Adjust commitment from $600,000 to $300,000) — $300,000
The third level would review the town’s capital projects that have funding that could support operations of the town.
The fourth level is limiting and monitoring departmental expenditures. DeMoura said those are already happening and ongoing and they will also limit conference travel for town employees in the future.
The fifth level is to explore revenue opportunities through grants and other governmental funding.
The sixth and final level would utilize unassigned General Fund Balance. DeMoura said they don’t anticipate to use this but if they needed to, they could plug gaps to maintain the level of service for the town.
G.M. Whitley asked which capital projects are being considered for the third level. DeMoura said the biggest project affected would be the Police Safety Training Facility. He explained it makes sense to hold off on that project until hospitality and accommodation taxes resume normal funding for the town.
Chairman of the Finance Committee, councilmember Tom O’Rourke, said the proposed budget gives them flexibility, but that hard realities and decisions will likely come later and into next year. He said so many things rely on revenues that make it difficult to predict if they’ll have to adjust the budget in the future.
DeMoura said instead of studying the budget plan half way through the year, they may analyze revenues and recommend budget adjustments more often, as information becomes available.
Councilmember Jake Rambo asked if Charleston County had shared how much they plan to contribute to the Medal of Honor Museum. DeMoura said not yet, but that the town is expecting $350,000 less in Accommodations Tax revenue from the county than they received last year. DeMoura said that’s why the recommendation is in the budget to partially defer the commitment.
Haynie explained the town’s overall commitment of $3 million to the museum remains; this would just defer how much they pay towards the MOH Museum in the FY 2021.
Councilmember Kathy Landing said that she thought staff did a wonderful job conservatively preparing a budget that gave room for adjustment in the future.
Councilmember Howard Chapman made a presentation on flooding issues throughout the town. He pleaded for the council to start to take flood resilience seriously. He suggested a $35 stormwater drainage fee be implemented next year in order to tackle this issue. He also announced that SCDOT has agreed to give the town back $1.2 million to help with drainage improvements in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant.
Haynie agreed that he wants to fix the drainage issues in the town but they may need to discuss this in a later meeting and pass the FY 2021 Budget. Landing said that they haven’t delayed on the drainage issue and depending on pending FEMA money from a grant, they may be able to start phasing this project soon. She said they will move forward on this but in the meantime they’ve saved taxpayers a lot of money.
The committee members thanked Chapman for utilizing his connections at SCDOT to secure the funding back to the town. Then, they unanimously recommended approval of the town’s FY 2021 Budget.
Council meetingThe May Town Council virtual meeting was held immediately following the Budget Committee meeting. Santos made a motion for the full council to approve the FY 2021 Budget and O’Rourke seconded the motion.
DeMoura explained it was a budget created in response to a significant financial hit coming for the Town of Mount Pleasant citizens and business owners throughout the year. He once again said that some revenue money has been lifted from the budget and into a reserve account only council can deploy for budget needs as they arise in the future.
O’Rourke made a motion amend the budget to include the minutes of the Budget Committee held on May 12 into their current meeting’s minutes for background information. Santos made a second.
Howard asked to make sure his presentation on flooding be included as a part of those minutes. Council unanimously approved the amendment.
Next they unanimously approved the FY 2021 Budget as amended.
“This is probably the strangest time for any budget to be passed in recent history of this town,” Haynie said. “We still have the flexibility to change things as we need to and to make other priorities.”