March 09, 2016In what seemed to be a record-breaking night, the Georgetown Town Council last month proposed a way to settle the MS4 loan without raising the rate, as well as conducting other business, all in less than an hour and a half, substantially less than its previous two-and-a-half-to-three-hour meetings. This proposal, however, would entail using money from the general fund to pay back the loan.
It was during the discussion of old business when District 3 representative Josh Williams told the rest of the board that he had been in talks with the State Board of Accounts to examine options in paying back the $75,000 that was loaned five years ago from the water operations account to MS4.
"State Board of Accounts doesn't care if we pull the money from the general fund, so I'm going to bring this up tomorrow night at the storm water board meeting, as well, that we move forward with pulling the funds from the general fund or from tax dollars to pay off that $75,000 loan so we're done, move on with that," he said.
Town attorney Kristi Fox questioned, "Do you have that in writing from them?"
Williams answered that he did.
Clerk-treasurer Brent Fender noted that he had been reading state code on the matter earlier that day.
"It said, depending on the size of the town, which I didn't understand, there were different rules to paying back loans," he said.
At-large member Chris Loop said his only concern was making sure that there was still enough money left over in the general fund to pay for future projects that were already assigned for the year.
"I don't care if we pay it back, but I think, obviously, with the general fund, even though there are funds in there, I want to make sure we have a good handle on the projects that are already coming out of there that are already allocated for this year, even though the money is not spent," he said. "I know you guys are going to look at it. I just want to make that comment."
Williams also said that, in talking with the State Board of Accounts, as far as MS4 goes, it doesn't care if Georgetown charges an MS4 fee or not.
"They don't care. They just want to make sure that the projects fit MS4 when it comes to it. So, the way I looked at MS4, and I'll bring this up tomorrow night, as well, the old discussion of raising the MS4 rate, I don't see a need to raise it anymore," he said. "The loan is gone and, then, the way I look at it, all these projects have to be done no matter what. Whether we had MS4 or not, all this stuff would have to be done and it be done out of taxpayer dollars.
"It'd be done out of property taxes, so I think that's how it needs to continue being done," he continued. "They need to be budgeted each year, this is what we're going to spend to fix drainage and stuff this year, and that's it, so we don't have to raise any other fees."
Jim Tripure, who's District 1 seat was replaced by current council president Everett Pullen in January, asked from the audience, if the council chose to go this route, would it then have to pay back the general fund?
Williams answered, "No, it's not a loan. It's just general fund pays it off and it's gone."
At the storm water board meeting that followed, according to the handwritten minutes, Williams explained his discussion with the State Board of Accounts and the town council. A motion was made by Patti Denison, who also is the former District 2 councilwoman, to recommend the council utilize the general fund to pay back the $75,000 loan. MS4 would then no longer owe money to any accounts. Williams seconded that motion, and it was approved unanimously.
The storm water board then discussed its previous decision to recommend a $3 per month MS4 rate to the council, which would result in a $2 per month increase. Per the minutes, Williams believed that a rate increase would not be warranted at this time given that the $75,000 loan did not have to be paid back.
With this new information, Williams recommended the rate remain at $1 per month and that the board revisit an increase at a later date. He believed that projects could continue to be funded via the general fund or other town accounts to pay for drainage improvements. Williams also informed the board that, per his discussion with the State Board of Accounts, MS4 is not technically a utility and can be funded by taxes.
Denison made the motion to recommend the $1 MS4 rate remain unchanged at this time to the council. Williams seconded that motion, and it was approved unanimously.
Town engineer and member of the storm water board Bob Woosley, however, suggested the board consider changing how the current rate is charged. He advised using a residential and non-residential rate based on equivalent dwelling units as discussed at the last meeting. According to the minutes, the board will discuss this further at the next meeting.
The next Georgetown Town Council meeting will be March 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall.