UNION — First reading of the 2016-2017 budget ordinance, a salary increase for the mayor, a rezoning, an annexation, a victim’s assistance bill of rights, and the WBCU Country Showdown were on the agenda of the May meeting of Union City Council.
Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve first reading of the 2016-2017 budget ordinance which projects a total of $45,155,350 in spending, a decrease of less than one percent from the current fiscal year. The budget summary submitted to council states that the main reason for the decrease is the projected decrease in wholesale purchase power and the projected decrease in the cost of natural gas.
The city budget consists of the General Fund, Solid Waste Management Fund, and Utility Enterprise Fund. The budget summary states that the 2016-2017 General Fund projects expenditures totaling $6,127,730, an increase of 4 percent or $212,580 over the current fiscal year. The General Fund covers the operations of the general government operations of the city such as the City of Union Public Safety Department which the summary states is 58 percent of the General Fund Budget.
The primary revenue source for the city’s general government operations is the municipal property tax which will increase by 2.6 mills to 86.8 mills in fiscal 2016-2017. The summary states the increase is based on the Consumer Price Index and percentage growth in population as permitted by state law.
Another major source of funding for the general government operations of the city are transfers from enterprise funds. The summary states that the proposed budget includes transfers from two enterprise funds to the General Fund totaling $1,840,000 or 34 percent of total projected revenues of $5,511,260.
The summary states that another source of revenue for the city, the Hospitality and Accommodations Fee “has allowed council to appropriate funds for local tourism and tourism related recreational events and projects. The fund has relieved some of the stress on the General Fund to fund these events.”
The Solid Waste Management Fund for fiscal 2016-2017 totals $758,250, a decrease of $25,980 or 3 percent less than the current budget. The budget includes no funding or capital equipment and leaves the garbage fee unchanged at $16 a month.
The Utility Enterprise Fund covers the operations of the City of Union Utility Department and will total $37,218,370 in fiscal 2016-2017, an increase of $933,000 or 3 percent over the current fiscal year. The summary states that the wholes sale costs of electricity and natural gas are projected to remain stable in fiscal 2016-2017 and therefore the rates charged the city will remain unchanged from their current level.
The water and sewer divisions of the utility department, however, are facing continued stress due to a combination of federal and state mandates and loss of the local industrial base. As a result, the proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent water rate increase based on volume and a 5 percent sewer rate increase based on volume up to 12,000 gallons.
Based on 4,000 gallons of water, that means the monthly bill for a residential water customer living within the city will increase approximately 36 cent per month and 52 cents a month for a residential customer outside the city. Also based on 4,000 gallons of water, the monthly bill for a residential sewer customer living within the city will increase approximately 88 cents a month and $.136 for a residential customer outside the city.
The water districts and fire sprinkler rates will not change.
Currently, the City of Union Utility Department provides water service to approximately 6,159 customers directly as well as supplying water to five water districts. The department also provides sewer service to approximately 4,859 customers.
The budget also includes a 2.3 percent cost of living increase for municipal employees.
In other business, council voted to increase the mayor’s salary from its current base level of $48,800 to $57,800.
The increase, which will not take effect until after this year’s municipal elections in November, was originally projected at $65,000. Council, however, deadlocked on this with a vote of 3-3 with council members James Wilson, Ricky Harris and Tommy Anthony voting no and council members Pamela Garner-Sloss, Robert Garner and Yates Giles voting yes. Mayor Harold Thompson did not vote as the matter concerned his salary.
Anthony then made a motion, seconded by Harris, that the increase be to $57,800. This was approved unanimously by the six council members.
Council also voted unanimously to approve second and final reading of an ordinance rezoning three properties adjacent to the Union County Carnegie Library.
The rezonings were requested by Library Director Rieta Drinkwine who stated that they were needed to accommodate the possible expansion of the library.
The sites being rezoned are located at 208 South Church Street, 309 South Mountain Street, and 307 South Mountain Street. The sites are each less than one acre in size and include the current parking lot area at the back of the library (307 South Mountain Street), a vacant lot adjacent to the parking lot (309 South Mountain Street), and another vacant lot next to the parking lot (208 South Church Street).
In her application for rezoning, Drinkwine stated that the library is considering expanding either the library building or the parking lot into the vacant lot at 208 South Church Street; would like to continue using the 307 South Mountain Street site as a parking lot; and may, as part of its expansion plans, need to expand its parking lot into the site at 309 South Mountain Street.
The ordinance rezones the properties from R-6 Residential which does not allow libraries or parking lots as permitted used to A-4 Office, Residential, and Institutional which does.
Council also voted unanimously to approve second reading of an ordinance annexing a tract of land on the south side of Stutts Avenue into the city. The property is being annexed into the city with an R-10 Residential zoning classification as it is adjacent to similarly zoned properties already within the city and meets the requirements for that designation.
Council also unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter the city into an an agreement to provide Victim’s Advocate services under the Victim’s Assistance Bill of Rights.
Council also voted unanimously to donate $500 WBCU’s “Miracles and Music” program.
Scheduled for July 9 from 2-9 p.m. at the Union County Fairgrounds, Miracles and Music is described a “country showdown” hosted by WBCU “with a day of fun and music as well as area musicians and a talent show. The day is designed to showcase area talent and give a day of fun to the citizens of Union and surrounding areas.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.