Blythewood Town Council adopts $1.279M budget

The Blythewood Town Council has adopted a $1,279,000 balanced budget for FY 2012-13 that reflects a $75,000 decrease in staff salaries and benefits, an increase of $20,000 in professional services, a projected overall $98,000 in total operating costs and an increase of $26,000 for economic development.

The Town will take $45,000 from local Accommodation Taxes and $40,000 from Hospitality Taxes for unidentified special promotions.

Under the heading of Public Works in the Town Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the administration will take $110,000 from the General Fund to cover some expenses for the Town Park: $50,000 to furnish the Doko Manor, $30,000 to clean up the area along the railroad next to the town park and $30,000 for playground facilities. Nothing was set aside for Community Development (sidewalks, street trees, wayfinding signs, etc.) in the 2012-13 budget.

The budget projects a $72,000 increase in expenditures for office lease and CAM and an increase of $20,000 in utilities.

The Town’s rental income, which was $5,000 (from the Community Center) in the FY 2010-11 budget and projected to be $19,000 in the current budget, is projected to increase to $29,000 in the 2012-13 budget.

The Town is projected to spend $142,000 during FY 2012-13 to help pay back its $5.5 million bond for the Town Park.

Addressing Council during the Public Hearing portion of the meeting, Cobblestone resident Tom Utroska called on members of Council to reveal their revenue source for almost $2 million of future public services expenses for a fire station, town maintenance facility and Sheriff’s substation.

“If such expenditures are included in the budget,” Utroska said, “then the proposed revenue sources – taxes, I assume – should also be reflected in the budget so that the general public fully understands your plans.

“In the past,” Utroska continued, “when I have questioned you about expenditures that I hadn’t been aware that you planned, I was all too often told, ‘well, it was on a spreadsheet or a proposed budget years ago.’

“Because of that,” he said, “I object to these items being listed in the Town’s budget. Just because something is on a spreadsheet doesn’t mean we’ve been told about it up front.”

Utroska scolded Council for not posting proposed budget information on the Town’s website prior to the final vote by Council.

Council also heard a report from the ad hoc baseball committee. Ken Branham, standing in for baseball committee chairman Bob Mangone, said Mangone had met with James Brown, chairman of the Richland County Recreation Commission, and County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson about Blythewood’s immediate and long-term needs for baseball fields. He also said the committee had established communication with the media.

“We immediately estimate the need for one additional baseball field,” Branham said. “But according to a 2009 report, that will not be adequate to meet our needs.”

Asked by Councilman Ed Garrison if the number of fields are adequate for the number of kids wanting to play, Councilman Jeff Branham, a member of the committee, said, “A couple of kids were turned away this past season, but there might have been more if the league had properly advertised the registration.”

Jeff Branham added that the numbers this season were about the same as in 2009.

Ken Branham said Mangone had visited the schools and other facilities around the town and had a couple of possibilities for new fields. He said it might be possible to build four on property behind Bethel-Hanberry Elementary School. He also suggested property adjacent to the current fields might be acquired for a field.

The property “is currently an eyesore,” Ken Branham said. “There are some mobile homes in disarray. We’re pursuing what it would take to get that property.”

Ken Branham also suggested the possibility of using property behind the former Ace Hardware store.

Ken Branham asked about getting money for the fields listed in the next budget.

Mayor J. Michael Ross said the Town should not have to fund ball fields.

“They should be funded by the Richland County Recreation Commission,” Ross said. “All the money that’s been spent on all these other County facilities and Blythewood to still be where it is – something is wrong. That’s where I want us to go to get the money.”

In other business, Council voted to sign a franchise agreement with Wildwood utilities for sewer services. It also passed a resolution to close Scott Ridge Road and divide the road property between the property owners on either side of the road.

Council postponed an executive session to discuss ‘the receipt of legal advice relating to a pending, threatened or potential claim.’

The next regular Town Council meeting will be Monday, July 30. Town Administrator John Perry told Council members that he might call a special meeting early in July to wrap up some contracts.

Mayor Ross and all members of the Town Council will be attending the annual five-day meeting of the Municipal Association of South Carolina on Hilton Head Island, Wednesday, June 27 – Sunday, July 1.