Surfside Beach leaders Tuesday passed a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year that holds the line on taxes.

The roughly $10.6 million budget keeps the tax millage rate at 46.2. The town’s fiscal year begins on July 1.

Included in the approved budget is a 3% cost-of-living adjustment.

Additionally, funding for one police position — a member of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit — is not included in the upcoming budget, officials said.

Part of the approved budget’s general fund will be used to pay half the cost of a $622,000 fire truck. The town appropriated hospitality funds from the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget to pay for the other half.

Other highlights of the budget include three police vehicles at $120,000 and a low-speed vehicle for beach patrol at $16,000.

Also, the town has $50,000 set aside for a facade grant program that entails the town providing a 50% match for participating businesses that make certain appearance enhancements.

Stormwater fee

The town council recently approved a stormwater utility fee, which is expected to be included with property tax bills sent out by Horry County government in October.

The fee would also apply to residential properties and other kinds of properties like commercial businesses.

Town officials estimate the stormwater fee would generate about $465,000 each year for the town to be used for things like stormwater projects and emergency repairs.

The fee will not be levied on agricultural or undeveloped lands. It will also not be imposed on forestlands.

The fee is based on the amount of impervious surfaces (that affect how much rainwater runs off a property) a parcel has compared to the impervious area on a typical single-family home in the town.

Town officials determined that the impervious area on a typical single-family home in Surfside is 2,531 square feet.

The fee would be $82 for single-family homes.

For parcels with multiple homes or commercial tenants on them, the yearly $82 fee would be divided between the individual units/tenants based on the square footage of impervious surfaces on that parcel. If common parking areas or other impervious surfaces (e.g. pool decks) are owned by a homeowner association or other entity, the fee for those parcels will be based on $82 a year per 2,531 square feet.

For other properties like retail stores, an annual fee of $82 per 2,531 square feet will be imposed based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a parcel.

Police take-home vehicle program and incentives

The town council has approved a one-year trial period for both a police vehicle take-home program and providing incentives for officers who meet certain requirements.

The take-home program is meant to help retain and recruit officers and allows as many as 14 town officers to drive police vehicles to and from their homes.

The one-year program is expected to cost the town an additional $4,300 or so in fuel costs.

The program applies to those in the department’s uniform division who meet certain requirements. Officers would be able to drive up to 12 miles from the police department to their homes.

According to a document written by Police Chief Kenneth Hofmann, the program increase the town’s liability insurance “related to additional vehicles on the policy” at a projected rate of $741 per vehicle.

The town will also need to spend about $2,000 for data access for the new vehicles.

Participating officers would not be able to drive their cars home until they’re off probation. The officers would still be able to drive it to the police academy during that time however.

The program will utilize resources as they are available. Vehicles will be assigned based on seniority and eligibility.

As part of the incentives, those with military service experience “with honorable discharge and/or good standing in a reserve unit” will be given a salary incentive of $1,000.

Those with law enforcement experience will receive a salary incentive of up to 5% more than his or her base starting pay. This would be determined on a case-by-case basis by the town police chief and administrator.

Additionally, those with associate degrees in a relevant field of study will receive a $1,000 salary incentive.

A $2,000 salary incentive will be given to those with bachelor’s degrees in a relevant field of study.

Hofmann estimated the program would cost $10,000-12,000 for a year.

A $3/hour incentive will apply to field training officers while training new recruits during the in-car phase of training. This would have a budgetary impact of $513 per new hire.

Hofmann said the training occurs only when there’s a vacancy. “The minimum time required to fill a vacated position is approximately 4 weeks, but often longer,” he wrote.

Under the program, beach patrol officers are given a $2/hour incentive, which results in a $3,430 annual budgetary impact.

Other business

Surfside Beach regular town council meetings will now be held 6 p.m. monthly on the fourth Tuesday instead of twice a month at 6:30 p.m. In December, the meeting will take place on the second Tuesday.

Multiple family members are also restricted from serving simultaneously on boards, commissions or committees. A council member’s immediate family member is restricted from serving on any statutory board, commission or committee.

Speakers during public comment and town council discussion and comments are restricted to three minutes. The mayor can limit the number of speakers on a particular topic.

Public comment speakers are forbidden from making any personal attacks against the mayor, council members or town employees, speaking or reading letters on behalf of someone else, talking about personnel matters, calling a person by name or addressing an individual member of the council and using profanity.

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