Florence residents facing 50¢ increase in monthly stormwater fee after city council OKs 2021-22 budget

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Florence City Council on Monday approved a new $95.1 million budget for 2021-22 that includes a plan for a 50-cents-a-month increase in stormwater fees to help address flooding problems in the city.

City council unanimously approved the budget after also agreeing on an amendment raising the amount of money going into the city’s stormwater utility enterprise fund to $1.66 million from $1.46 million. The vote on the amendment was five to two.

In a corresponding move aimed at making sure the budget stays balanced, city council also passed the first reading of an amended ordinance allowing the 50-cent increase that will generate the $202,000 in additional revenue. City council members must still approve a second reading of the amended ordinance that raises residents’ monthly storm water fee to $3.84.

Council members agreed the stormwater system is in need of millions of dollars in improvements to fix flooding issues that continually plague several areas of the city, but not everyone was happy about raising residents’ bills.

“We need to figure out a way to do this,” Councilwoman Pat Gibson-Hye Moore said. “But I don’t want to impose a burden on residents…we have to come up with other solutions, not just giving increases.”

Councilwoman Lethonia Barnes said feedback she has received from residents indicates a willingness to pay the increase, but they expect to see work being done.

Councilman Chaqauez T. McCall said the increase is small compared to other municipalities that have more than doubled their stormwater fees in recent years. Florence’s fee has not changed since 2006, he said.

“It amounts to $6 a year,” he said. “It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s more than we currently have now.”

Florence is in the beginning stage of a study of the stormwater system that’s estimated to take up to three years. Barnes said the increase is a “reasonable” one.

“People have elected us to do something,” she said. “The issues have been an ongoing problem for a long time. So for us to say ‘we’re working on it, but wait three years before we tell you how we’re working on it’ is hard for some people to swallow.”

Mayor Teresa Myers Ervin said that no matter what the city does, there’s always going to be a flooding problem in Florence.

“Either way we go, the total draining will not be resolved. Florence is a flat city. When it rains, we will have flooding no matter what we do.”

Below is a breakdown of the new budget, which will go into effect on July 1.

  • General Fund: $41,091,000
  • General Fund Debt Service Fund: $694,000
  • Water and Sewer Utilities Enterprise Fund: $37,561,000
  • Storm water Utility Enterprise Fund: $1,663,500
  • Water and Sewer Utilities Construction Fund: $8,005,000
  • Storm water Utility Construction Fund: $296,000
  • Water and Sewer Utilities Equipment Replacement Fund: $1,024,500
  • Storm water Utility Equipment Replacement Fund: $135,000
  • Hospitality Fund: $4,647,500 (includes contributing to the operation and maintenance of the Florence County Museum). The city and the museum signed an agreement in 2013 to provide the funding through June 30, 2025.

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