In Myrtle Beach’s new budget, approved Tuesday, outside agencies that sought money will get less than previously allotted, sewer and storm water rates are higher and city employees will receive bonuses.
The $157.8 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 does not increase the property tax rate, which remains 66.1 mills. Last year’s total budget was $152.8 million.
Before approving the budget City Council members decided that outside agencies will receive a total of $283,950 from Myrtle Beach to provide services the city would otherwise provide.
That amount is down from the $335,500 the Myrtle Beach City Council recommended during their budget retreat in April.
Organizations requesting money appeared before council May 14 to explain why their organization needed the funding.
In April, Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said since the city’s budget hasn’t grown, organizations that received money last fiscal year should get the same amount this year.
“And some that we gave money last year, I think we should give less this year,” she said.
After council members suggested on Tuesday the amounts they believed should be given to the organizations, they were about 10 percent over the allotted figure. The fiscal year 2013-14 budget appropriated $285,000 to go to outside agencies.
At Councilman Wayne Gray’s suggestion, the council decided to reduce the amount of money each of the 14 agencies would have received by 10 percent.
The newly formed New Directions will receive $121,500 from the city, the largest amount appropriated. That amount is the sum of money received by four organizations that all help needy people in Myrtle Beach.
New Directions is the consolidation of organizations that work with the area’s needy people. The Center for Women and Children, Street Reach Ministries and Life Line, the domestic violence agency that replaced Citizens Against Spouse Abuse, are combining resources to form one operating board that will work under one 501c3.
Mary Jeffcoat, who has facilitated meetings among service providers, local government, churches and others in accordance with a fall 2011 City Council resolution, said they also hope that Myrtle Beach Haven will join forces with New Directions.
In fiscal year 2012-13, the city appropriated $40,000 to Street Reach; $50,000 to CASA before it closed, and the money was transferred to the Center for Women and Children; Helping Hand, which performs the intake process for New Directions, received $15,000; and Myrtle Beach Haven received $30,000.
Myrtle Beach Haven, which requested $50,000 from the city, has yet to join New Directions. The city did not appropriate any funds for the shelter.
“If we give them $30,000, or whatever amount, we’re going against what we said we were going to do,” said Councilman Mike Lowder.
New Directions was created at the request of City Council, who have said they would not fund organizations that refuse to consolidate.
The council also recommended $15,000 to Helping Hand for operational purposes.
Amounts approved by the council include:
Councilman Randal Wallace recused himself from the vote on the S.C. Hall of Fame because he is a member of its board.
The new budget also includes increases to the storm water rate by 75 cents a month; a 3.7 to 4 percent increase in sewer and water bills, based on a 7.5 percent increase in the sewer rate; and an increase in the charges incurred by people using the city’s fire and EMS services. Additionally, the fire department will begin to charge owners of commercial properties at least $75 to be inspected.
City employees will receive a flat $800 bonus next fiscal year, totaling about $789,000. In the current fiscal year employees received an across-the-board 3 percent raise. City employees received a merit raise of up to 3 percent last fiscal year.
Lowder voted in favor of the budget, though he expressed concern with giving all employees a flat bonus and would be more comfortable if the bonuses were based on merit.
“To me, in my mind, it’s just not fair to treat all employees the same when you’ve got this person over here who is doing a marvelous job and this person over here is doing a marginal or average job,” he said.
City manager Tom Leath said while he typically is in favor of merit bonuses, the city not been able to offer as competitive salaries as he would like nor have they been able to provide a cost-of-living salary adjustment.
“Give then day and time, the $800 to each employee is the most fair way to handle it,” he said.