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Surfside Beach on May 3, 2020. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

The Surfside Beach Town Council voted to approve a budget that does not include any property tax increase or fee hike. The budget covers the 2020-21 fiscal year that’s from July 1 through June 30.

“This is a bare-bones budget,” Surfside Beach Finance Director Diana King said at the council’s meeting Tuesday. “I hope that things come in much better than we have budgeted. … I was very conservative.”

Amid uncertainty due to the COVID-19 crisis, the town’s $6.8 million general fund spending plan is a reduction of more than $1.6 million from the one the council approved last year and comes following roughly two months of restrictions on short-term rentals and indoor dining earlier this year.

The new plan does not include pay raises or cost-of-living or state retirement adjustments for employees. It also does not call for capital expenditures.

The town council previously discussed the budget during a May 27 workshop. During that meeting, Town Administrator Dennis Pieper said Surfside Beach officials communicated with the town’s department heads in formulating a balanced budget, and he advised the council to re-examine their plans six months down the line.

“Everybody cut everything that they could from their budgets,” he said, “because, again, none of us has a crystal ball as to what the real revenues are going to look like.”

King has said she slashed revenue amounts in the budget because of unpredictability regarding the summer season, hoping levels would return to normal at the start of next year.

The budget includes eliminating a few town positions including a senior accountant, a reception job and a laborer post. Two police department positions are also not being funded, officials said.

Across all departments, there was a total decrease of $361,000 through reductions in salaries and benefits.

Other budget highlights include a $27,000 increase in spending for the police department to go toward liability and vehicle insurance and a $44,000 public works hike for streetlights. There is a $300 decrease for the fire department and the amount of funds allocated for a façade grant program has been halved to $25,000.

During Tuesday’s meeting, King noted the budget also does not include funds to go toward actual construction of a new town fishing pier — meaning town officials would have to approve a budget amendment in the future to allocate funds for that purpose.

Town leaders are currently working to evaluate bids received to reconstruct the pier, which was decimated in 2016 due to Hurricane Matthew.

Last month, the council approved the formation of an independent committee to vet the bids. Mayor Bob Hellyer said two people were originally on that board, but one of them resigned.

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