Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)
BYLINE: Kirk Brown
ANDERSON – A loss of nearly $600,000 in federal grant money has added to the financial challenges facing Anderson officials, city manager John Moore said Friday.
“A lot of grants are expiring,” Moore told the three city council members who attended a midday budget workshop.
The city police department is expecting a $348,000 reduction in federal grant money in the upcoming fiscal year, according to a report presented at the workshop.
Another $350,000 from a federal grant that allowed the city to hire nine firefighters also is disappearing. Moore said the fire department saved enough by leaving three positions open to avoid the need for further personnel reductions next fiscal year.
The loss of federal money is one of the main reasons that Moore’s proposed general fund budget includes a $156,000 deficit. Moore has suggested eliminating the shortfall by dipping into the city’s $6.6 million savings account, known as a fund balance.
Moore has proposed an overall city budget of $49.5 million for fiscal year 2012-13, which will start July 1. The $24.8 million general fund accounts for slightly more than half of the overall spending plan.
While the proposed city budget holds the line on taxes and utility rates, it also includes no pay increases for 450 municipal employees and a continuation of a hiring freeze.
“We are trying to get through these tough economic times,” Moore said at the Friday meeting. “But we are OK.”
Council member Steve Kirven complained Friday about an anticipated $42,000 reduction in state aid in the proposed budget. He said state legislators are trimming financial support for cities across South Carolina at the same time they are considering plans to provide pay raises to state workers.
“They are squeezing us so they can give raises and we can’t,” he said.
While the city’s general fund continues to struggle, Moore emphasized at Friday’s workshop that the financial picture is not as bleak for some of the other components in the overall city budget.
The city will be able to carry out $1.3 million in water and sewer improvement projects next year, Moore said. He said the city will not need to raise its water rates for the first time in five years.
Moore said the budget also includes money for a new downtown park, as well as improvements at Linley Park and the city recreation center on North Murray Avenue.
A public hearing on the city budget is scheduled for 5 p.m. on June 11 at City Hall. City council members are expected to give preliminary approval to spending plan after the public hearing. A final vote on the budget is set to take place June 25.
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