SUMMERVILLE — The best news Town Council heard this week won't be part of its monthly meeting on Wednesday. Despite economic setbacks, town finances are well in the black as the fiscal year ends.
Department heads, asked to hold the line on spending, are almost five percent below budget projections. Meanwhile, town revenues are up some seven percent above expectations. When finance director Belinda Harper told that to the full council finance committee earlier this week, council members gave her and other department heads a round of applause. The calendar year is the town's fiscal year.
At Wednesday's meeting, the council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the 2012 budget before casting a final vote. The nearly $25 million budget calls for no new taxes or fees. Property tax on a $200,000 home will remain about $499, according to the town finance office.
The budget, the first proposed by Mayor Bill Collins in his role as acting town administrator, is about $2 million more than the current budget, but the town will draw down its fund balance, essentially a savings account, for that extra money. The town has been keeping in reserve almost double the money recommended by the state. The budget pays for two new police officers and a maintenance worker, but does not provide a cost of living increase for staff.
The town has begun to see upticks in revenues from sources such as business licenses and building permits fees that suggest improvements in an economy that has stagnated revenue since the national economic collapse in 2008.
Also on the meeting agenda is consideration of setting fees for the use of buildings at town parks, such as the gazebo, Cuthbert Center or Berry House at Azalea Park. The $25-per-hour to $500-per-event (for the Berry House) fees are an effort to recoup town costs for maintenance and clean up of the buildings. The "special event" fees also include charges for barricades, police officers and fire inspection.
Council also is scheduled to hear a "digital downtown" presentation by Blueweb Mobile Media. The Florida company provides free WiFi, or wireless internet connections for computers, to downtowns, neighborhoods or other areas. The service is paid for by advertisements that users view when they access the site, said David Daucanski, president.