Loris Mayor Todd Harrelson says there will be “complete transparency” of the city’s finances in the future.
The mayor told the Loris Scene Monday he is working to make those improvements in the wake of concerns expressed in recent weeks.
This Thursday, July 11, the public will have a chance to address Loris City Council about the 2019-20 budget, but they will have very little documentation to look at concerning the spending plan.
That’s because, unlike other governmental bodies, Loris has not provided a detailed budget for the public or press to review. Instead, the only thing released is a one-page public notice with very limited information.
That notice states the projected revenue and expenses for the upcoming year are approximately $6.5 million.
Kimberly Rudelitch, a Loris resident, addressed council during the public comment period of the July 1 meeting about the lack of budget information available to the public.
“I have asked for monthly financial statements and have been told I have to pay astronomical (Freedom of Information Act) fees for those financial statements. They are not in the council packets listed online,” Rudelitch said.
She asked council members if they receive the city’s financial statements.
The only response she received was from City Clerk Kenya Wright who said council receives the same information that is on the city’s website.
“How long has it been since you, as council, have seen monthly financial statements and have consistently reviewed them? Where is the accountability for our city?” Rudelitch asked council members.
Harrelson said Rudelitch would receive an answer to her questions by July 12.
On Monday Harrelson said the city is looking at new computer software that will help get the budget and other information on the city’s website.
“I will make everything available one way or another. Loris is going to be very transparent; you can believe that,” he said. “We want to make everything we can online. We are looking at several different options.”
It was revealed during a budget workshop in June the new budget includes a 30-percent pay increase for the mayor and Loris city council.
Damon Kempski said before his resignation that some city employees may also be getting more money in the spending plan but declined to say which workers and how much of a raise they can expect.
In May, Councilman Michael Suggs voiced objection to the pay hike for council and the mayor but no one spoke against the proposal during the June meeting.
In May, Suggs noted the budget was “out of balance” and that increasing the pay of council and the mayor “did not make sense” to him.
If the budget is approved Thursday as currently written, the salary of Mayor Todd Harrelson will increase from $5,400 to $7,200 annually. Councilmembers will get an increase from $2,400 to $3,200 each year.
“We certainly do need it. In order to have other people even consider running for council, it is needed,” Harrelson said.
He said he spends, on average, more than $200 a month on gas as he performs duties of the mayor -- and now some of the city administrator duties until an interim is found for that position.
He said even with the increase, he and council will still be paid less than places such as Mullins.
Right now, there is nothing to indicate any of the city’s public safety workers (police, fire) will see an increase in pay.
Those working in the sanitation and water and sewer departments could see a pay raise. In fact, the sanitation pay could jump from $31,000 to $61,000.
There will be no tax increase in the new budget.
Thursday’s public hearing begins at 5:30 p.m. which will be followed by the city council meeting to give final reading to the budget.