MOUNT PLEASANT -- Walloped for more than a year by a brutal recession, residents finally have some good news about their pocketbooks.
The town's proposed 2010-11 budget doesn't increase property taxes or fees.
The proposal unveiled Thursday also calls for buying 25 new police cars and two firetrucks to keep its public safety fleet up to date, and purchasing two new garbage trucks. The replacement vehicles could cost a total of about $2.5 million, depending on how the bidding process goes, officials said.
The proposed $64.4 million spending plan, which still needs Town Council approval, would maintain basic services at current levels. It has $33,666 less in expenditures than the current budget.
The news was mixed for the town's work force. The town hasn't laid off or furloughed employees, and the new budget doesn't anticipate doing either to make ends meet. But the town's 554 employees aren't budgeted for a raise or a Christmas bonus during the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The town also has saved $2 million by freezing 40 positions when they became vacant through attrition, said Deputy Administrator Eric DeMoura.
The proposed budget balances expenditures and revenues without dipping into the town's $12 million savings account. Money is designated for expected increases in fuel and employee health insurance costs.
The town tried to offset higher fuel prices with police cars that got better mileage but found that the vehicles didn't hold up as well as the Ford Crown Victoria. "We're going back to all Crown Vics," DeMoura said.
The town has 160 police cars and replaces 25 of them annually. They typically last about five years. The town buys new police, fire and sanitation vehicles on lease-purchase plans that spread the cost over time, he said.
The budget includes money for a pumper truck and a ladder truck for the Fire Department, which has four ladder trucks and seven pumpers. Chief Herb Williams said a ladder truck lasts about 15 years and that the life of a pumper is about a decade. After that, he said, it costs too much to maintain them.
The replacement police cars will cost a total of about $750,000 when fully outfitted; the firetrucks will total up to $1.5 million; and the garbage trucks will be about $230,000 each, officials said.
DeMoura and Town Administrator Mac Burdette presented the proposed budget to council. Burdette described it as "very conservative" and "straightforward." Different portions of the budget will go to their respective council committees for analysis and recommendations. Council members asked a few questions Thursday but had little to say about the budget. After being considered at the council committee level, the budget goes back to council for its consideration.
Town department managers have shaved expenses as revenues have dropped because of the recession.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at email@example.com or 937-5711.