Council approves first reading of budget

Barnwell City Council passed the first reading of its 2013-14 fiscal year budget during the regular meeting Monday evening.
The nearly $3 million general fund budget includes a small property tax increase, just over $5 more a year for a house with an assessed value of $100,000.
The $7 public works fee, instituted last year so the city would have enough revenue to avoid cutting services, is included in the budget. It is expected to bring in an additional $176,000.
The fee shows up on residents' monthly water bill.
Overall, the budget is similar to this year's, though it includes raises for city employees, which is paid for with $30,000 from the city's savings account.
The city will also be paying about $23,000 more for employee insurance.
The police department will receive the most funds, almost $1 million and $37,000 more than this year.
The city has been awarded a grant from the S.C. Dept. of Public Safety to buy new police vehicles, although the exact amount it will get is still unknown. City Administrator John Zawacki said the city had asked for enough funds for five new vehicles.
Back to the budget, municipal court expenses are estimated at $139,000 while sanitation is at $285,000. The city will have to do another round of bidding for garbage collection service. The streets department will get $279,000.
The fire department, which will be getting its new firetruck later this month, is set to receive $325,000, and city administration will get $676,000. The Parks and Recreation Department is set for $202,000 while the Lemon Park Sports Complex is getting $50,000.
The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. A public hearing on the budget will be held next month before the regular meeting.
Also during Monday's meeting, council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance to change the service cutoff date for unpaid water and sewer bills.
Bills will still be due by the 15th of each month, but instead of a three-month grace period before disconnecting customers' water for unpaid bills, the city will shut off water if bills are not paid in full by the 10th day of the following month. For example, if your bill is due Aug. 15 and you haven't paid it in full by Sept. 10 your water will be shut off.
Like the old ordinance, there is still a 10 percent late fee and a $30 disconnection fee. Bills must be paid in full before water is turned back on.