Council OK’s Budget

BLYTHEWOOD (June 30, 2016) – Blythewood Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mike Switzer and his assistant Kitty Kelly made one last stand Tuesday evening to persuade Council to increase funding for the Chamber from $9,500 to $20,000, but Council passed on the request, instead increasing the funding for the Chamber to $12,500 as they previously voted to do at the budget workshop on June 14.

Mayor J. Michael Ross praised the Chamber for what it did for the business community, and he said the Chamber actually received the largest increase of any outside group funded by the Town government.

Referring to a comment Switzer made at the June budget workshop emphasizing the Chamber’s strides in recruiting large businesses outside Blythewood like the new giant Killian Road Kroger, Ross said, “I’m thrilled that the Kroger is coming. My wife is thrilled. However, when a Blythewood resident buys groceries at that Kroger, they will be taking business away from our IGA and Food Lion here in Blythewood. That’s something to think about.”

Councilman Tom Utroska asked Switzer what percentage of Blythewood businesses made up the Chamber.

“About 25 percent,” Switzer said.

After the meeting, however, Switzer said he thought it was closer to 40 percent.

Council voted unanimously to adopt the $1,596,679 proposed budget with only a few minor changes from the second reading on June 14.

“We were able to balance the budget with existing revenue sources, which was helped by cost savings like the transition from outsourcing accounting services to bringing those in-house with the new software, reducing audit, legal and IT costs, and bidding out some services which reduced annual contract costs,” said Town Administrator Gary Parker.

But Parker warned, as he did last year, that it might soon be necessary to find additional sources of revenue, suggesting the possible necessity of a property tax.

Parker said, on the revenue side, that even if there is no change this year in the business license law regarding what fees can be charged, that change may come next year and could result in substantial reduction in Town revenues.

“Currently,” Parker said, “the Town receives $180,000 to $200,000 in business license revenues depending on the number of businesses. If the maximum fee allowed becomes $100 per business, our revenues would drop to $18,000, or about one-tenth of the current amount.”

Parker said the Town’s big revenue sources are mostly the state-controlled insurance tax collection program and local option sales tax program which are dependable sources for now but not necessarily in the long run.

“A large source of revenue for the town right now is building permits and fees,” Parker said. And he reminded Council that, potentially, the biggest, most flexible and controllable revenue source would be a property tax if, subject to Act 388’s limiting formula, the Town is ever able to establish one.

Accommodations Tax (A-Tax) and Hospitality Tax (H-Tax) revenues will most likely increase next year, according to Parker, which will allow the Town to do a number of things, including transferring some of the H-Tax revenues to the Enterprise Fund for the Manor.

“The dollars available for funding Town events like the S.C. Diamond Invitational baseball tournament, the Christmas Parade and other events will not decrease. In fact,” Parker said, “available tourism-related funding increases from last year’s $106,000 (total A-Tax and H-Tax dollars) to this year’s $200,000.” Parker said if all that funding is not used this year to fund events, the unused amounts can roll over to next year’s fund balances.

Parker said the Town is finalizing its transition to SmartFusion accounting software as it moves its operations into the Cloud.

“There is no doubt that these expenditures will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Town’s operations, and that, in turn, will result in lower costs and improved services to citizens,” Parker said.

The newly adopted budget includes a Capital Project Budget for the construction of the amphitheater that will be funded by donations that include a $125,000 contribution from Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union, a $75,000 grant from the Central Midlands Community Foundation and H-Tax funds.