$1.8M budget adds $60K for legal costs

BLYTHEWOOD – Town council passed a $1,854,837 budget at the June 28 meeting, an increase of $35,070 over the FY 20/21 budget.

Of the pluses and minuses in the FY 21/22 budget, those that stand out include an increase in the town government’s legal expenses for outside attorneys – $60,000, up $35,000 from $25,000 last year. Mayor Bryan Franklin requested the increase, referencing a possible legal skirmish between the Town and its newly contracted marketing firm, MPA Strategies. That skirmish became a legal action on June 28 when MPA filed a complaint against the Town after Franklin did not comply with an FOIA request submitted to him by MPA Strategies on April 15, 2021. See adjacent story.

Salary increases

Salary increases – a 1.3 percent cost of living and 3 percent merit increase – were approved for all salaried town hall employees. Total increases approved for town hall salaried and hourly workers (excluding the Manor staff) for FY 21/22 come to more than $30,000.

Increases approved last year for council and the mayor (from $6,000 in FY 19/20 to $7,200 in FY 20/21 for council members and from $10,050 to $10,800 for the mayor) cannot increase again until a new council is seated. Total expenses for the governing body increased by $10,500 – from $70,610 in FY 20/21 to $81,110 in FY 21/22.

There was an overall increase in funding for events from the town’s hospitality and state and local accommodation tax revenue. Three WHS and BHS sports teams and each school’s band received approval for a total of $45,000 in funding from H-Tax for events, The chamber was approved to receive a total of $43,700 in funding from A-Tax, H-Tax and the town’s general fund, Two separate rodeo events are approved for a total of $50,000 and the Blythewood Historical Society is approved to receive $32,000. Another $25,000 will go to fund the WSCGA Golf Tournament.

A portion of the funds paid to MPA Strategies ($26,400) has been approved to come from state accommodations taxes, with the balance coming from the general fund.

While there had been a determination expressed by council last year to reduce spending of hospitality tax revenue on tourism related events and save for a possible land purchase for recreational use, that determination did not survive the budget vote. Instead, council voted 4-1 to fund all tourism related events receiving hospitality taxes at 100 percent of the requested funding. That funding topped $140,000 for FY21/22, including:

Range Fore Hope Golf Tournament   10,000

RibFest                                    16,000

Oktoberfest                                          18,000

Holiday Market                                       5,000

BHS Tournament of Bands              10,000

WHS Tournament of Bands            12,000

Bengal Boys Golf                                       4,500

BHS Girls Golf                                          2,500

Rodeo – pioneer days                        25,000

SC Diamond Inv. Tournament         20,000

Queens of the Castle Girls BB        16,500

Council voted to approve previous funding amounts totaling $37,500 for outside agencies out of the general fund. Those agencies include:

Transitions                                               5,000

Christian Assistance Bridge              6,500

YMCA                                                        1,000

Blythewood Chamber of Commerce     5,000

Sen. Resources (Meals on Wheels)   6,500

Big Red Barn                                            1,000

Camp Discovery                                                    1,500

Community Keys                                  3,000

Stone Hose Ministry                           1,000

Blythewood Soccer                              1,000

Bethel-Hanberry Athletic Assoc.         6,000

The amount funded each agency could change when council votes on the individual agencies at the time of distribution, but the total allocated will remain at $37,500.

The town approved spending a total of $9,200 of H-tax funds on three events: Black History, Women’s History and Veterans’ Day. It will also spend $7,000 in H-tax funds on the farmers’ market, $38,000 on various town events and $150,000 on a decorative/safety fence along the sides of the bridge over I-77.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]