After hours of legal jargon and department-specific terms at last week's town council annual retreat, Town of Mount Pleasant councilman Chris Nickels just wanted a clarification.
Councilmembers broke for a 26-minute executive session to receive legal advice for a potential new town hall building. When they came back to the Rivertowne Country Club Eagle's Nest ballroom, Nickels asked town administrator Eric DeMoura to verify that a list of approved budget items didn't infer that every single one could be taken on.
Every city has a wish list of items that requires millions of dollars to address. And, it's a pretty safe bet that every city doesn't have the capital means to budget all of the issues.
“To someone that didn't attend this meeting,” DeMoura said, nearing the conclusion of the annual council retreat, “they could ask why are there pipes that need replacing and we're doing something else?”
“You can't trade funds,” Nickels interjected.
“Right,” DeMoura said.
Town or city departments are funded by state and/or federal governments every year, with the majority of those funds on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. They're not cell phone providers; nothing rolls over into the next term, either.
About $164 million of wish list projects were identified after consulting with department heads. They were ranked using a matrix formula of necessity, community goals and safety concerns.
The following morning, councilman Elton Carrier insisted in a Facebook post that “the town is in great shape financially, but keeping up with the growth and aging of our assets is a real concern.”
What is currently on Mount Pleasant's list of priorities has a shortcoming of $27.5 million, Carrier noted. “Those projects are very important in nature and include infrastructure – roads and stormwater – maintanenance and repair,” he said. “We have to find the revenue for these projects.”
Mount Pleasant officials may need to get creative, because “the town's general fund is off limits as it is there as a reserve for major, unforeseen events.”
Phase II of the Shem Creek project and a new town hall will be paid for using tax-increment financing, otherwise know as TIF. This is a public financing method to use future, expected tax gains to financially support projects that are projected to create the gains.
Building a new town hall is projected to cost about $23 million. Other information presented to council included drainage concerns with aging pipes, a proposed new fire station, upgrades to existing recreational facilities and a new system for town employee healthcare.
Councilmembers will continue to prioritize items for the 2013-14 fiscal year in the coming months.