Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Understanding that proper infrastructure is critical to the quality of life of Mount Pleasant residents and to local businesses competing in a global economy, town council took action to meet the needs of its aging road and stormwater systems. By spreading the increase broadly through a combination of stormwater, business license and millage fee increases, the town will generate an estimated $3.25 million for capital improvement projects.
Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page was adamant that action was needed and even went so far as to say that action was a little late.
The stormwater utility fee will increase from $30 to $60 annually. The property tax increase of 3 mills will cost $45 annually for the average sale price of a home in Mount Pleasant valued at $373,035. Combined, the new stormwater utility fee and the property tax increase will add $75 per household annually.
Even with this three mills tax increase, Mount Pleasant's millage (41.3 mills) remains far below the real property millage of Charleston (82.3 mills) and North Charleston (95 mills).
The money will be spent on the priority-based Capital Improvement Program. The new revenue will go towards maintaining stormwater pipes, roads and sidewalks, pavement preservation projects, and will allow for contributions toward new road projects.
Like most communities in the U.S., Mount Pleasant is grappling with the challenge of meeting increased service demands while funding expensive repairs to an aging infrastructure. For decades, the Town has installed infrastructure necessary to build a community. However, these assets have aged and little funds are reserved for their maintenance. If left unrepaired, the cost of the projects will increase and the quality of life will erode.
As part of the 2012-2016 Strategic Plan, Town staff partnered with a consulting firm to inventory and to assess infrastructure conditions. The firm used special equipment and vehicles to inventory every linear foot of pavement the Town maintains. Based on the asset inventory, the Town determined that $14 Million would be required annually to repair and maintain the Town's existing infrastructure for the next 100 years.
To address the challenges of aging infrastructure, Town Council directed departments to get leaner and reduce expenditures in order to fund the Capital Improvement Plan. Over the past three years, the Town eliminated millions of dollars in expenditures. Some of the largest cuts included freezing eight percent of the workforce, deferring employee performance raises and cost of living increases, restructuring health care benefits and reducing capital outlay.
These measures have improved the Town's financial strength and have placed the Town in a position to meet new demands for services such as police, fire, and sanitation. However, they are not enough to fund deteriorating infrastructure like roads, sidewalks, and stormwater lines.
The stormwater and building license fees, along with the millage increase, will allow Town Council to gain momentum and forge ahead with critical capital improvement projects.
In addition, town council voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to important changes in the Coleman overlay district.
However, there was an effort to minimize the recommendations, including the parking requirement that every home have at least two spaces.
Council is expected to address parking as well as the allowance for one-way streets before final approval, which should take place at next month's meeting.
Earl's Court developer Vince Graham and one of his staff members spoke out against the proposed changes. Bill Eubanks of Seamon Whiteside's Urban Edge Studio, who was one of the original consultants on the overlay argued that the town, before taking any action, should consult with the development community.
Councilman Gary Santos pointed out that more than 200 people turned out for one meeting at Moultrie Middle School back in November.
Dozens of people turned out to protest the proposed gun shop on May Lane, including the Rev. Reginald Jacobs of Friendship AME Church on Royall Avenue. Walter Brown presented town council with a petition signed by more than 330 residents who are opposed to the shop.
Town leaders noted that the property is zoned commercial and therefore it is a legally permitted use.