City of Florence approves 1st reading of $84M budget

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The City of Florence passed first reading of a $84, 678,000 budget during a work session on Tuesday. The current general fund is $34,440,000 about $1.1 million dollars more than last year.

City Mayor Stephen Wukela says the city budget has increased over the past couple of years because of the city’s growth.

“When I first came into office in 2009 we were on the very front end of ended up being a very long and deep recession. We saw very little growth in the budget during those almost 10 years now.  Over the last couple of years we’re beginning to see budget growth in the neighborhood of two and a half- three percent,” explains Mayor Wukela.

Mayor Wukela says the 2017- 2018 budget is balanced with no millage increase. To keep the budget balanced with a new $356,000 retirement bill from the state, the city will have to take away merit- based rewards for city employees.

“We were planning to reinstate merits again this year without any change in the millage. Unfortunately, due to changes at the state level with the retirement system it doesn’t look like we will be able to do that,” he said. “We’ve got employees that are working very hard. [City employees] certainly have worked very hard in the last year, of course with the Hurricane and all of the cleanup efforts. I really would like to see them get merit increases. They deserve merit increases but unfortunately the constraints of the budget are what they are.”

City employees will have a cost of living increase but council worries’ eliminating merits creates problems with hiring and retention.

“In addition to being demoralizing for employees. It causes compression in the pay scale. You have an employee that’s been there for 5 years. He’s getting essentially the same pay as an employee that is just coming on. That is problematic,” Wukela said.

The city plans to work on several projects including:

–           New subdivision

–          Water/ sewer replacement

–          Soccer complex

–          Hyatt hotel in downtown Florence

“We believe and hope that this year will continue on this path of growth.”

City council will hold final reading on the budget on June 12TH, If adopted the budget will start July 1st.