Saluda holds public hearing on budget

Published 4:20 pm Monday, June 18, 2012

Water, sewer rates to increase
The Saluda Board of Commissioners plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday, June 26 on the town’s proposed budget totaling more than $1.5 million.
The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. in the meeting room above the Saluda Public Library. Commissioners are expected to hold a special called meeting directly after the public hearing to approve the budget.
Saluda’s proposed general fund for fiscal year 2012-2013 is $955,895, with its water and sewer fund totaling $618,245. The total budget as of now equals $1,574,140.
Saluda Finance Officer Ron Cole said the biggest changes this year come through the water and sewer department.
“July 1 there will be the new contract with the fire department and in doing research for that new contract we discovered that we must charge our non-profits’ water bills,” Cole said. “We have found we cannot treat them any differently than other customers.”
Cole said in the past non-profits in Saluda, such as churches, were provided free water. Two years ago, the city changed its policy and provided the water to such organizations at cost over 6,000 gallons. Cole said beginning with the new budget July 1 those groups must pay for water and sewer at the same rates of other customers.
Water and sewer customers will also see an increase in their bills. A $4.87 per month per use fee will be charged to water bills to fund the debt required from the installation of a water line from Saluda to Tryon. Sewer rates will also increase $3.13 per month per user, for an overall increase of $7.50 per month, per user.
Part of these additional funds will also maintain the salary for one additional full-time water employee who was hired on in November of last year.
Cole said there would be no increase in property tax rates or garbage collection fees this budget year.
The city also plans to offer a 2.5-percent salary increase for city employees.
Cole said he hopes Saluda would be able to put back $3,555 into reserves, which would bump up the available fund balance to more than 35 percent. He said this could change, however, as the board wants to complete upgrades to city hall in the next budget year.
“The board really wants to finish the building – this includes completing heating and air and proposals to upgrade the building to make it more usable for office space,” Cole said.
These renovation plans are not included in the proposed budget because no contracts have been approved. This year, the board approved the completion of a new roof, windows and brick for the building to repair structural issues.
Saluda residents can view the proposed budget at city hall from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

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