Balanced Easley budget includes salary increase for city employees

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — The City of Easley’s 2016-2017 budget focuses on employees, quality-of-life improvements and equipment needs.

City administrator Stephen Steese gave a presentation on the proposed budget prior to council’s final budget vote on June 13.

The budget totals $16,618,450 and includes a general fund budget of $13,243,950. Overall, the budget represents a 6.91 percent decrease over the 2015-2016 budget and a general fund budget decrease of 0.4 percent as compared to the 2015-2016 operating budget.

“It is a balanced budget, as required by state statute,” Steese said.

The general fund budget is “what we use for our daily operations,” Steese said.

The budget includes a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all city employees, he said.

It also reduces out-of-pocket health insurance costs for employees while increasing benefits. For the third year, the city will offer gym discounts for city employees as part of its wellness program.

The budget creates three new positions — two in the police department and a stormwater engineer.

“Even with these additional positions, the city is still below the level of personnel prior to the Great Recession,” Steese wrote in his executive summary.

Equipment needs addressed by the budget include five new vehicles for the police department, two fire vehicles and a new brush truck.

“On the expenditure side, you’ll see that the vast majority goes to public safety,” Steese told council.

The budget includes $50,000 for demolition of substandard residential and commercial properties.

“This is a continuation of what we’ve done for about four or five years now,” Steese said.

“In addition, this budget includes $200,000 for parks and recreation projects that city council will decide on how to spend on parks and recreation/quality-of-life issues and projects during the fiscal year,” Steese wrote. “We have received bids from consultants to update our parks and recreation master plan for the city. These funds are help to use for any recommendations from this study that council wants to move forward with in FY 16-17.”

The budget also includes funding for the Nalley Brown Nature Preserve, which will be created on land donated to the city. The budget recommends using $150,000 in fund balance in the city’s hospitality fund to begin the development of the park.

“These funds would be used to create an entrance and parking area and begin the development of natural trails,” Steese wrote in his executive summary.

He added that the trails would be similar to the Cottonwood Nature Trails in Spartanburg.

“These are natural flow trails that also label plants, trees and shrubs along the trail,” Steese wrote. “This would be the start of the project and would provide the spine to expand on in future years.”

Other quality-of-life issues addressed by the budget include $110,000 for special events and fireworks throughout the year, $50,000 for the completion of a parking lot in the downtown area and $25,000 to fund loans in the community development program.

The city’s hospitality fund continues an upward trend, Steese wrote.

“We should also see an increase in revenue from removing the discount for early payers,” he wrote. “This should provide over $30,000 in additional revenue. Between increased volumes in tournaments, an improving economy and more restaurants opening, we hope the growth continues.”

The city continues to retire outstanding debt.

“This is a good position to be in financially,” Steese said, adding the city has leverage for any larger projects if needed.

Following a public hearing on the budget, council voted unanimously to adopt it.

The budget is available to view online at the city’s website,