Each year at this time, Mauldin’s City government prepares a budget for the coming fiscal year – that is, the period from this year’s July first until next year’s June 30th, which is termed “Fiscal Year 2022” (FY-2022).
South Carolina state law requires each City and County to assemble a balanced budget and approve it prior to the beginning of each fiscal year. Approval requires that the proposed budget be approved by majority vote of the Council, in two separate Council meetings, held at least one week apart.
Since December, each branch of the Mauldin City government (Police, Judiciary, Fire, Business Development Services, Public Works, Finance, Parks and Recreation, Economic Planning and Development, Human Resources, and Administration) begins preparing its expected financial needs for the new fiscal year: police cars, fire engines, trash-collection trucks, park maintenance, Cultural Center support, business services, City growth and development, street maintenance, personnel for each department, and more.
At the same time, the City’s Finance Department must project the sources and amounts of revenue. The City’s five major sources of revenue are (1) property taxes, (2) licenses, fees, and permits, (3) “Hospitality and Accommodations” taxes, (4) money provided by the State via the “Local Government Fund”, and (5) intergovernmental grants. There are a number of limitations on where the money from some sources can be spent. Hospitality and Accommodations taxes, for example, must be used in some way that will promote increased travel into the City by non-residents.
Each February, the City Council meets to determine what the City’s goals ought to be for the coming fiscal year, as well as for the long-term. Like all of us, there are always more demands than there are finances to pay for them. The Council and the City Administrator work together to prioritize each expenditure. The City’s expected income draws the line which will separate that which will get done from that which will not.
While it is possible to obtain more money by selling bonds, doing so adds to the City’s debt, which limits future budgets. For multi-year projects like sewer maintenance, bonds can be acceptable, because they are repaid through sewer fees, which are a dependable, regular source of income.
The City’s excellent AA+ credit rating is one of the best in the State. That saves it a lot of money when borrowing. It was built up through years of frugal spending and careful financial control, and City Councils have been uniformly careful to preserve that credit rating.
Revenue for last year, of course, was reduced due to the COVID virus. Revenues are expected to be higher for FY-2022, but the new budget reflects the fact that the exact recovery of revenue levels is unknown, stating: “Conservative revenue and expenditure projections, focusing on the City’s essential public services and long-term fiscal health.”
That proposed City budget totals $41,565,848.
The Council’s goals for FY-2022 focus on making Mauldin “a highly desirable place to live and work” – “an environment that enhances the quality of life for all citizens”.
Happily, those goals include no increase in taxes. The City understands residents’ hardships due to COVID, and participates in the budgetary limitations.
Council hopes to implement its goals through the beautification of public places, creation of passive parks, improved community interaction with public safety personnel, the continuation of the City Center project, a modernization of zoning ordinances, recruitment of retail and restaurant services, construction of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and more.
In April, Council reviewed the budget proposed by the City Administrator and City staff, discussing each possible expenditure. The next step is the process of formal approval. Approval requires Council’s vote of approval in two separate Council meetings. Changes can be made in either meeting, up until the second vote. It is not uncommon for one or two small changes to be made prior to either vote.
If there is ever a time when the City’s residents should attend a Council meeting, the two meetings to vote on the budget are probably the most important.
The first Council vote for the FY-2022 budget will be held in the regular May Council meeting, on Monday, the 17th of May.
The second Council vote for the FY-2022 budget will be held in the regular June Council meeting, on Monday, the 21st of June.
Like any Council meeting, public comments are welcomed at the start (and at the end) of the meeting. That public comments period is the time for residents to express their concerns and requests. In the May and June meetings, any such comments should be made with particular regard to the proposed budget.
That budget is available for perusal on the City’s website, at https://cityofmauldin.org/departments/finance/ .