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City Council tweaks budget plan

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Nobody speaks at public forum

By Jesef Williams

Trash pick-up in the city of Lancaster may look more like a robotics demonstration starting this summer.

City staff have added $40,000 to the proposed 2013-14 budget to buy a “swing arm” that will attach to one of the solid waste pick-up trucks. The driver of the truck will operate the device, which will lift curbside trash cans, dump them into the truck’s trash bed and place the cans back in their place.

Solid Waste Director Marty Cauthen said the swing arm will allow the truck to pick up about twice the amount of trash cans per hour. Also the device means just one – and no longer two – people will be required to ride in the truck. That person won’t have to get out the truck, a change that will ensure more safety and protection from inclement weather.

The $40,000 will come from carryover money in the city’s solid waste fund for 2012-13.

“I’ve seen ‘em in action,” Councilwoman Tamara Green Garris said about swing-arm trucks. “I think it’ll be beneficial for the city and its residents.”

That inclusion was one of the proposed changes highlighted during a special City Council meeting Tuesday, June 4, to continue discussion of the 2013-14 budget. The proposed budget now sits at $23.39 million – nearly $2 million more than the original budget for 2012-13.

Since first reading last month, key changes to the proposed budget include: 

– $845,000 in expense to fund infrastructure upgrades at the Air-Rail Industrial Park off S.C. 9. That money was allocated during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

– $330,000 in expense to complete the roof-replacement project at Lancaster Fire Department Station 2 (Hubbard Drive). That money is being carried over from the 2012-13 budget.

– $172,00 in expense to match a $350,000 grant the city received for a pump station project in the Erwin Farm area

– $75,000 in carryover money to buy two marked police vehicles 

– $28,319 in salary for an evidence custodian for the police department and $28,000 for an IT (information technology) specialist 

“Is $28,000 enough for an IT specialist? It just doesn’t seem like a lot,” Councilwoman Sara Eddins asked Finance Director James Absher.

Absher said that salary is in line with  current city employees who have the level of responsibilities the IT specialist will have.

The proposed 2013-14 budget has a 5-mill property-tax increase that would result in a roughly $20 annual tax increase on a $100,0000 owner-occupied home. 

However, with a local option sales tax credit in play, homeowners will get back $22 on $100,000 in fair-market value of property, Absher said.

“The net effect is most residents won’t see an increase in city taxes,” he said.

The proposed budget calls for a $2 monthly increase in both the water and sewer rates. 

The extra money generated through the increased fees would be placed in the city’s reserve fund.

There is no proposed increase for solid waste fees.

Tuesday’s meeting began with a public hearing to give residents a chance to ask questions and express concerns about the budget. Nobody spoke during that segment, as the meeting only included city employees, council members and the news media.

Final reading 

Final reading of the budget will come at council’s next meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, at City Hall, 216 S. Catawba St.

 

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152