Fee increases that Conway City Council had anticipated giving an easy nod to Monday afternoon have developed some concern among Conway’s business community, according to Devin Parks, director of economic development and government relations with the Conway Chamber of Commerce.
That has caused the council to move the second reading of its upcoming fiscal year’s budget off of its consent agenda and schedule a public hearing for citizens to speak to the issue of large increases, according to Parks.
The chamber official said the fees haven’t been increased in eight to 10 years, and he doesn’t argue that some increases are needed.
But he says, some business people agree, that the fees are too much to put on the backs of Conway’s business community at this time. He is suggesting that the increases be pro-rated over a period of about five years.
“Of course, the cost of living goes up; they need increases,” he said.
However, after hearing a discussion on the “pretty significant” fees at council’s most recent meeting Parks became concerned, leading him to speak with several large developers about just how much difference the increases will make.
He uses a 1,500-square-foot house with a building permit cost of $561 now. The permit fee for that same home, under the new rates, would be $774.
Utility bills, in the proposed budget, will be due for all city water customers on the 15th of each month.
Major subdivision plan reviews, those with more than five lots, will increase to $2,500 to offset the costs of the review process; solid waste collection fees will increase due to an increase coming from the Horry County Solid Waste Authority. Plus, city officials say they need to have additional money to maintain service to Conway’s rapidly growing population. Monthly charges will increase by 21 percent for residential and commercial service fees.
Monthly fees for one rollout cart with a single pickup will increase from $19 to $23 per month and commercial monthly rates for dumpsters will follow the same increase. In the area of stormwater, monthly fees will increase to tackle flooding concerns throughout the city. Monthly service fees will increase by 33 percent for both residential and commercial customers going from $5.25 to $7 per month.
Public utilities will increase several fees to keep maintaining and growing the city’s aging water and sewer systems.
Water and sewer capital recovery fees will increase by 35 percent. Water will increase from $1,000 to $1,350 and sewer will increase from $1,200 to $1,620.
“The new fees mainly impact new growth,” the city’s information says.
Water and sewer rates are set to increase by 4 percent. For a household average of 6,000 gallons of water, an in-city customer will see an increase of $1.87, out-of-city charges will increase $1.75 or $3.75.
Parks says he expects several people to speak at the public hearing Monday afternoon.
Also as to the increased water fees, Parks said, staff proposed the higher rates because its members were anticipating an increase in its costs from Grand Strand Water and Sewer, but that increase isn’t coming.
“I haven’t really gotten any complaints, mostly concerns,” he said. “It’s legitimate concerns for sure.”
Parks says he expects people who own businesses in the city to be interested in the proposed rates.
“I definitely do anticipate some concerns from public input. Also, I really anticipate these fees being reduced. When I say reduced, I mean spread out over time,” he said.
City council will return Monday at 4 p.m. with its virtual meeting format over Zoom. Anyone who wants to address these new fees before a final vote is taken needs to contact Barbara Tessier at (843) 248-1760 before noon Monday.
Conway’s proposed budget for 2020-21 will increase by 2.57 percent over the current budget moving from $46.9 million to $48.1 million, according to information provided by finance director Allison Williams.
Although there was some concern expressed by council members about possibly not being able to cover its budget in light of recent economic problems caused by COVID-19, Williams said the city appears to be on track with its predictions so far, and if the city doesn’t collect as much as it expects to, it can delay some of its large expenditures until later in the year or even to future years.
The budget year begins July 1.
The General Fund budget will actually decrease by 2.64 percent, according to the projections.
Money is expected to come primarily and almost equally from taxes and licenses and permits.
Tax revenue is expected to increase by 8.66 percent from $6.6 million to $7.2 million with licenses and permits expected to increase from $6.5 million to $6.9 million, an increase of 4.87 percent.