Council Spending Strays from Agenda

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council at Saturday’s annual retreat, held at The Langford-Nord House in Blythewood, voted on three items that involved expenditures and that were not placed on the agenda for action prior to the meeting.

Council gave the OK to $3,500 from Hospitality funds for a Small Business Forum on April 22; $3,000 for a barbecue dinner for 48 French exchange students and $1,200 for the S.C. Council of Governments to update the Town’s employee handbook.

No Answer on Storm Water

Town Administrator Gary Parker informed Council that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had not yet responded to the Town’s request for a waiver on the designation of Blythewood as an MS4 (municipal separate small sewer system.)

“We hope to work with the County on managing that program, which, if Blythewood had to manage its own storm water program, would cost the Town about $50,000 annually,” Parker said.

If the Town can work under the County’s program, the County will staff it and enforce the program’s mandates. Parker said that if the Town has to pay the storm water management program, the Town will pass the cost to the citizens in the form of a 4 mills property tax.

New Budget Format

In preparing for the upcoming budget, Parker said he is changing the budget format to specifically reflect the Town’s needs and to make the budget easier to read and understand. The new format will arrange expenditures by departments (administration, legal and professional, public works, inspections and code enforcement and parks and recreations).

Parker said this would “aid in monitoring the costs of the various Town services” and that he will present a proposed budget at the April Council meeting. The new format will be a precursor, he said, to new municipal accounting and budgeting software he will be asking the Council to purchase.

New Accounting Software

“The Town is currently operating off QuickBooks,” Parker told Council, “which has not been satisfactory for Town staff because the data cannot be accessed in a timely fashion. A municipal operation should be able to access all financial data from staff’s own computers.”

Parker said the new software will facilitate decision making.

“Right now we have to rely on monthly financial reports with weeks-old data for our decision making,” he said.

“(The software) will allow us to prepare an annual budget more quickly and more accurately,” Parker said. “We (will be able to) do account inquiries that help us immediately decide if we should make an expenditure or not.”

Parker said the new software will allow the Town staff to do the payroll and most of the accounting operations, saving the Town possibly tens of thousands of dollars annually. Proposals from software technology companies will be presented to Council at the March 30 meeting.

The next regular Town Council meeting will be March 30, at The Manor.