Town of Blythewood’s largest budget increase tied to employee compensation

BLYTHEWOOD – Cost of living increases, hiring more staff, and significant improvements to Doko Meadows Park highlight the Town of Blythewood’s draft 2023-2024 budget.

Blythewood Town Council voted unanimously on May 22 to pass first reading of the annual budget.

The town’s 2023-2024 budget includes $5.6 million in projected revenues against $5.06 million in spending, leaving $558,953 in contingency funds. Other proposed expenditures, according to council documents, include:

  • Capital Improvements | $2,501,500
  • State Accommodations Taxes | $204,492
  • Local Accommodations Taxes | $207,800
  • Hospitality Taxes | $600,000
  • Manor Capital Improvement Fund | $303,607

At least one additional budget workshop is expected, followed by a public hearing and final reading June 26, council documents state.

The biggest budget increases are tied to employee compensation, accounting for about $572,000 in spending, and include a 5% cost of living increase, 3% merit pay raises, and associated retirement cost increases.

Earlier versions of the budget proposed an 8.7% COLA increase for town hall employees, council documents show.

Town Administrator Carroll Williamson said he budgeted an employee compensation study as well, though he thinks it can be funded in the present budget cycle.

Other general fund highlights include additional spending for a part-time Human Resources employee ($10,000), hiring a lobbyist ($25,000), and community events ($34,000).

Councilman Donald Brock voiced skepticism regarding the lobbyist expenditure.

“I’m not necessarily sure we need a lobbyist, but I’m not really prepared to fight that tonight,” Brock said.

The budget lifts spending for community events from $12,000 to $34,000.

Community events include the town’s farmers market, Christmas Parade and Big Grab. The Christmas parade and Big Grab bring in some of the highest numbers of visitors to the town with the Big Grab, which is allocated $5,000 annually, bringing in the largest number of travelers (primarily buyers and sellers) from across the United States of any of the town’s events.

Under “cultural events,” $4,000 is proposed for a quilting group.

Councilman Rich McKenrick said a town subcommittee – to which he and Councilman Eddie Baughman were appointed by the mayor – has been developing a policy that better defines outside groups that request money, specifically whether they’re considered outside agencies, community events or cultural events. That makes a difference in correctly itemizing funding requests in the budget, McKenrick said.

“There’s some gray area at best in some of these categories and how things got there and how much is being requested,” he said. “We didn’t want to throw any hand grenades to staff, but we’re going to try to propose cleaning this up.”

McKenrick proposed adopting the budget minus the $34,000, while also pledging to restore funding with a budget amendment later on.

“We need to let these organizations know that the final allocation is not going to be zero,” Brock said.

Council members couldn’t say when the new policy will take effect, though they said it would definitely be after the budget is adopted.

“It’s complex. What we’re going to propose is equally complex or more complex than the H-tax policy council passed,” McKenrick said. “That’s why we were not pushing to have that done before the budget.”

On the capital projects side, the Capital Improvement Fund’s proposed budget stands at $2,534,500. It’s subsidized primarily by transferring about $2.5 million from the general fund budget.

The town’s Manor Capital Improvement Fund will increase dramatically.

Last year, the town budgeted $206,200, but spent only $38,912. The proposed budget calls for $303,607 in spending. Manor-related projects in the pipeline include installing more security cameras, interior painting and bride’s room flooring.

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