North Charleston leaders gave initial approval to next year's city budget Friday, outlining an $85.5 million spending plan with no tax increase and a $1,000 pay increase for employees.
The proposal is a jump of about $3 million in expenditures over this year, with about half the boost coming from an increase in property taxes collected, including from the city's growing developments in the northern tip, among other factors.
Based on current projections, the owner of a home valued at $150,000 would pay about the same tax bill as this year, or about $430 in city property taxes.
Overall, the budget is projected to increase by about 4 percent. It is set to take effect July 1 if it passes City Council adoption votes later this spring.
City officials described the budget as bare-boned, saying the largest chunk of the additional spending -- about $2.7 million -- will go toward lease-purchasing of new vehicles after none were added to the fleet this year. The purchase list includes 43 new cruisers and unmarked cars for the police department.
Friday's budget retreat by council's Finance Committee was one of the shortest on record, lasting about three hours. They discussed everything from sidewalk-paving strategies to how to approach the possibility of another base closure commission being launched by Congress.
Mayor Keith Summey's proposal to reward employees with a $1,000 salary boost was widely supported by council. "I think our entry-level employees are the ones that need assistance right now," he said.
Money for the increase would come from the end of a three-year lease-purchase contract of public safety radio equipment that is expiring.
The boost would not cover part-time employees or those who receive unfavorable work reviews.
Finance Committee Chairman Kurt Taylor said he was comfortable with the budget, saying there were no tax increases, furloughs or cuts in service. "We are in a much better position than most local governments in our revenues," he said.
Summey also said the city will continue to pursue all sources of income it can, including federal government stimulus funds.
Later this spring, city officials also may take a tour of sites where gambling boats operate to explore the cost benefit of allowing the boats to dock in North Charleston.
Some council members have said they would not consider the idea unless it can net at least $1 million annually.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.