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Greer is going on hiring binge adding 13.5 employees in fiscal 2016-17; balanced budget increases $1.9 million

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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The Greer Fire Department will have the most hires and the Greer Police Department begins building a fifth patrol division.
 

Jim Fair

The Greer Fire Department will have the most hires and the Greer Police Department begins building a fifth patrol division.

 

City Council unanimously approved a nearly $22.5 million balanced budget for fiscal 2016-2017 in a first reading Tuesday night. That is an increase of 9.8 percent over the $20.6 million budget ending June 30.

It is a historical jump in personnel with the addition of 13.5 positions – the most budgeted in any fiscal years by City Administrator Ed Driggers.

The millage rate remains at 97.8 mills. There have been only two millage increases since 2000 – the last one was five mills for 2012-2013 FY.

New business licenses and commercial growth will supplement a chunk of the budget increases, Driggers said at a workshop two weeks ago.

The past four years council has focused on amending its employees pay and benefits through additional ordinances to secure annual increases. Council has instituted annual pay raises, bonuses based on the previous fiscal year’s surplus and other benefits. The budget increased 6.87 percent in FY 2014-2015 FY and 4.23 percent in FY 2015-2016.

“It (budget) is aggressive but it’s also an anomaly,” Mayor Rick Danner said. “We knew when we did the adjustment last year that there was going to be an adjustment in existing employees and what that looked like.

“Now the addition of personnel will be accounted for in the future but we won’t be adding 13.5 every year,” Danner said. “The idea is we reconciled the rates and adjustments last year for the previous actions. We’re doing the same thing again this year so next year we shouldn’t have 63 percent of the budget committed to personnel. It should be compressed next year.”

Council was also unanimous in repealing the controversial $75 public works fee adopted four years ago to generate additional income to steady and balance the budget during a wobbly economy. Councilwoman Judy Albert had been the lone dissenter, as her district constitutes many residents who don’t benefit from some public services.

Council, instead, established a Greer Sanitation Fee – $115 annually ­– to assess residents using Ace Environmental waste pickup. Councilman Wryley Bettis disagreed with the premise of the fee and councilman Jay Arrowood questioned Driggers on the negative balance – $4,000 – that is forecast at the end of the fiscal year and possibly through the remaining four-year agreement with Ace.

“Those that receive the services will pay for the services,” Driggers explained in a line-by-line workshop two weeks ago. “It is not revenue generating except to pay for the services residents use,” Driggers said. “We will be charging residents far less than they would get for the same service anywhere else.”

Driggers told council there is an opportunity to generate more than the 9,405 residents to date that will be billed for the services. There is no opt out for residents who don’t use the city’s service provider.

Employees, living outside of Greer, are being offered a one-time two-percent pay increase to live within the city. “It encourages our employees to be part of the community. They should take to heart that it’s cheaper to live here,” Danner said with a laugh.

New personnel will result in the city hiring a planner. The new position will help with Greer’s fill-in community growth re: zoning, code, types of buildings allowed and city’s comprehensive plan vision.

A 4-person telecommunications department, under the Greer Fire Department’s jurisdiction will be unique to the area. While all the employees will be on Greer’s payroll, GFD will pay one-third of the cost, and Taylors and Boiling Springs fire departments will also pay one-third. Greer has partnerships with the Pelham Batesville and Lake Cunningham already in place.

The centralized dispatch service will steer the nearest fire department to handle calls instead of unwritten “turf” that have been claimed historically. “What that means is if you have a ladder truck passing a fire station going to a training exercise and there is a call to an incident ahead of you, that ladder truck will handle that call because it is closer to the incident at that time,” Greer Fire Chief Dorian Flowers explained.

Flowers said that was an actual scenario where a person experiencing cardiac arrest was aided by the ladder truck’s crew and stabilized.

The police department will be hiring two officers this year and two in fiscal 2017-2018 to add a fifth patrol division. Police Chief Dan Reynolds began suggesting to council, two years ago, more personnel was going to be needed to handle the city’s growth.

Reynolds says he envisions the present four units surrounding the city with the fifth unit more of a central business district.

Here is where the new personnel will be assigned:

• Telecommunications – 3 full-time, assigned to the fire department. (GFD will make a PT to FT)

• Fire – 3 full-time

• Police – 2 full-time. 2 part-time (records clerk, criminal investigation division)

• Public services, 2 full-time.

• City planner – 1 full-time

• Building and licensing – 1 full-time

• Parks and recreation – 1 part-time

A public hearing on the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget will be held June 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Council Chambers in City Hall. There were no residents speaking for or against the proposed budget last year and no one addressed council Tuesday at the first reading.

• This story was amended.

 

 

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