Hartsville aiming to avoid employee furloughs

By Samantha Lyles

Hartsville City Council convened their monthly meeting on April 14 via teleconference and, aside from handling regular business, there was some discussion of how the city is handling financial pressures accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic.
City manager Natalie Zeigler said that while the Municipal Association of South Carolina has reported a number of cities are cutting budgets and furloughing employees, Hartsville is trying to lessen the impact on city workers and those reliant on city services.
“We are monitoring the situation, looking at our cash flow, trying to figure out how it’s going to impact us, and attempting to make changes elsewhere to try to avoid the furloughs,” Zeigler said. “I don’t have those answers right now, but we are working through it.”
On the regular agenda, council passed final reading of Ordinance 4383, leasing the building at 106 East Carolina Avenue (currently home of The Key retailers) from Spondulits LLC for $1,450 per month. The lease term runs from April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023.
By passing final reading of Ordinance 4385, the city renewed a lease agreement with Darlington County Humane Society. The lease permits that agency to use the city-owned building located at 149 W. Carolina Avenue for another year at the rate of $500 per month.
Council also passed final reading of Ordinance 4386, annexing the property at 1330 South Marquis Highway where a city water tower is located. The property is owned by the City of Hartsville and needed to be annexed in order to close a doughnut hole of unincorporated land.
Members of council voted to name Martin S. Driggers Jr. as City Attorney to serve for one year beginning July 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2021, and appointed Elizabeth York to serve as part-time Municipal Judge for a three-year term beginning July 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2023.
Approval was given to apply for a $40,000 South Carolina Department of Public Safety Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant. If approved, this project would “help provide safety equipment for the HPD task force, create partnerships with other PSN grantees, provide training and education for HPD and community leaders in order to strengthen neighborhoods through prevention and re-entry programs,” according to the resolution extract. The grant would require no matching funds from the city.
Members approved establishing a rental fee schedule for use of the city’s Jet Vac truck.
According to this resolution, the city receives numerous requests to assist in clearing out storm water systems located on private property. This new measure allows deploying of the Jet Vac truck on private property at the rate of $400 per hour for every requested use.
Also at this meeting, council received the year end (6-30-19) audit report from accounting firm Sheheen, Hancock & Godwin, which offered an unmodified opinion indicating no issues with how the city maintains and reports financial data.
Overall, the report showed City of Hartsville revenues fell short of budgeted goals by $595,088, and expenditures exceeded their budgeted total by $96,071.
Total governmental fund revenues were $12.9 million (plus $1.3 million from other financing sources) and expenditures were $14.7 million, leaving a net change in the fund balance of -$476,336. The Water, Sewer, and Waterpark Fund showed operating revenues of $6.5 million and expenses of just over $7 million, leaving a negative net position of -$724,911.
The report showed a total fund balance of $1.9 million, with only 0.54 months in reserve per annualized expenditures. This amount was deemed “low and recommended to have minimum of three months reserve” to cover operational costs in case of emergency.
The next meeting of Hartsville City Council is scheduled for May 12 at 5:30 p.m. If social distancing guidelines are still in place, the meeting will be live streamed to the public via the City of Hartsville’s YouTube channel.

Author: Stephan Drew

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