Originally created 05/23/00

Officials give OK to budget



AIKEN - Aiken City Council tentatively passed a proposed $40 million budget Monday, paving the way for employee raises and more city revitalization.

The new budget also contains no property tax increases for the 12th year in a row.

"Continued growth in the area has allowed us to keep the millage at the same rate," City Manager Roger LeDuc said. "We also instituted several cost-saving measures through a bench marking process."

The city council kept the millage rate at 79 mills for the new fiscal year.

In a May 1 budget work session, council members decided to eliminate plans for a historic walking trail to allow for a cost of living raise for city employees.

The extra money will change the compensation from a $700 increase per employee to a 1 percent plus $550 increase.

"The council members said they would rather see a pay increase instead of a walking trail," Mr. LeDuc said.

The budget, which represents city expenditures until June 30, 2001, also includes the reduction of six full-time personnel from the general fund and utility budgets with privatization helping to fill these positions.

"For the last two years, we've had a reduction in the number of full-time employees," Mr. LeDuc said. "That, coupled with the growth, is the reason we've been able to keep the mill down."

The city manager said he's received many calls from senior citizens who want to know how they can pay off their city taxes. The new budget includes a program to help seniors do that.

Calls also have been flooding in about ways to bring businesses to the west side of the city along Richland Avenue near Kalmia Plaza. The budget sets money aside to start a streetscape project to rejuvenate the area, Mr. LeDuc said.

Other projects on the budget include:

Revitalizing older neighborhoods, such as the work done at Crosland Park.

Improving Citizens Park's baseball and soccer fields.

Creating a Public Safety car take-home program. No city officers can currently take home their vehicles.

Completing another well to add to the city's water supply.

Purchasing a new fire truck.

Continuing the streetscape program along Hampton Avenue.

Beginning a tennis complex at Virginia Acres.

Relocating the Public Works and Engineering departments into a new complex.

Continuing capital development projects, like the airport terminal, Ventures Park infrastructure, Westinghouse Corporate Service Group/Performing Arts building and more.

Residents can voice their opinions June 12 at a public hearing on the budget.

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.