Camden City Council approved first reading of an ordinance adopting the city’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 operating and capital budget of $47.5 million during its meeting Tuesday evening. City Manager Mel Pearson said the proposed budget, which, if passed on second reading at council’s next meeting, will take effect on July 1, is “very progressive. The staff and I feel good about this budget.”
The budget ordinance calls for a 6 mil tax increase. According to language in the ordinance, the total millage levy for Camden will 103.1 mils, including 10.2 mils for road paving/resurfacing and 13.8 mils for the city’s Project Improvement Fund.
At the April public hearing on the proposed budget, Pearson noted the city has not had a millage increase since 2015.
“The costs of participation in the state pension fund and other employee benefits have been going up steadily,” he said. “Our city is continuing to grow and prosper and we encourage that growth, but with that we have to provide additional services, which also cost.”
Pearson said the tax millage increase, if approved, will mean a homeowner “will pay $18 more per year on a $200,000 home.”
The balanced budget calls for a $10.714 million General Fund (a 4.41 percent increase from FY 2019), $34.795 million Utility Fund (a 4.82 percent increase), $1.1 million Local Tax Fund, and $857,400 Project Tax Fund. A “Budget in Brief” attached to the ordinance in Tuesday’s agenda packet indicates the Project Tax Fund is split between the Project Improvement and Paving funds at $488,700 and $368,700, respectively.
In the General Fund, revenues are expected to show a slight increase. Operational expenditures are projected to be at or near current levels, but also include a 10 percent increase in commercial sanitation rates.
Money from the Paving Fund is projected to be spent on projects involving Rutledge Street and the west side of Walnut Street, as well as the second phase of the Sweet Gum Trail connecting Scott and Woodward parks.
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, council gave first reading the “Fairness in Lodging Act,” which notes the city established a 1.5 percent local accommodations tax in 2002 and that “those who fail to collect and remit Accommodations Taxes and Sales Taxes in connection with accommodations provided to transients are competing unfairly against those who dutifully meet these obligations.”
The ordinance would establish a notice of sales tax due that would be included with such residences’ annual property bill. It would list out a total of 12 percent in taxes as follows: state sales tax (5 percent), state accommodations tax (2 percent), county local accommodations tax (1.5 percent), city accommodations tax (1.5 percent), local option sales tax (1 percent) and local education capital improvement tax (1 percent).
(Editor’s clarification: In our preview of the meeting in Tuesday’s edition, we mistakenly stated that during council’s April 9 meeting Bloomsbury Inn co-owner Katherine Brown said during public forum that she was meeting her obligations while other bed and breakfasts in the city were not. What Brown actually said during the April 9 meeting concerned business license and utility fees, not taxes, which is what Tuesday’s ordinance focuses on. The C-I regrets the error.)
Part of Tuesday’s meeting was devoted to the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission’ presentation of its annual preservation awards.
Commission Vice Chairman Rusty Major thanked council for their support.
“The historic commission works for you,” he told council members. “Thank you for putting your trust in us. We won’t let you down.”
The eight awards presented were:
• Adaptive Re-use of a Historic Property: 833 South Broad/Dancin’ on Broad owned by Rengy Marshall. After purchasing the building in June 2013, Marshall renovated it with the help of architect Steve Smith and contractor Moses Denton. The first event was hosted in February 2014. Since then, it has been an “open and inviting place in downtown Camden where everyone feels comfortable and welcome.”
• Renovation to a Downtown Historic Commercial Building: Ideation, owned by Benny and Amie Maresca. Purchased by B&A Charleston Property LLC in December 2017, the building underwent renovations shortly afterward and were completed a year later. Rooms were added for the spa area and break room. The cost of the renovation was approximately $300,000 and the contractor was Steeplechase Contractors LLC.
• New Construction within a Local Historic Neighborhood District: Camden Elementary School, presented to Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins and Kershaw County Board of School Trustees Vice Chair Shirley Halley. With a $20.925 million investment, the district constructed a new Camden Elementary School on the site of the former Camden Graded School. The building, featuring a cupola reminiscent of the original building, has a state-of-the-art security system, classrooms ranging in size from 800 to 1,200 square feet, teacher workrooms on each hallway, a computer lab, art room, library, full size gym, administrative wing and an 800 student capacity.
• John S. Lindsay Historic Landscape Preservation Award: Holly Hedge owned by Ben and Pamela Schreiner. The Holly Hedge archives document that when the builder, William E. Johnson, courted Mary Cunningham Brown of Liberty Hill, he promised her the most beautiful gardens in South Carolina and spent the rest of his life fulfilling his promise on what was originally 65 acres. Since purchasing Holly Hedge, the Schreiners have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into restoring the historic gardens.
• Preservation Excellence Award for Non-Profit Organizations: Proctor Hall, presented to Annie Boone. Louise C. Proctor Hall, formerly known as “The Cedars,” was built in 1823 by Thomas Durham Salmond. In 1955, Louise Courtney Salmond Porter Proctor bequeathed the estate to be used by “the ladies of Camden” for civic and social events. In April 2017, under new directorship, renovations began on the house. The outside was repaired and extensive yard work was done. Inside, the kitchen and upstairs were renovated.
• Restoration Excellence Award: Bethesda Presbyterian Church, presented to R. Jim Burton. Bethesda’s sanctuary, designed by Robert Mills and dedicated in 1822, was constructed with hand-molded and fired bricks from Mulberry Plantation. Over the years, repairs to the masonry were made using mortar harder than the original mortar, causing moisture to be trapped which caused damage. In 2017, the church began repairs to the bricks and mortar, including repointing mortar joints, replacing cracked bricks, repairing cracks in columns and constructing additional supports under several porches.
• Restoration Excellence Award: Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church, presented to P. Michael Arant. Water intrusion was causing damage and in order to correct the problem, all possible water sources around the church were redirected and the exterior of the building flashed and caulked to prevent water wicking. Dillon Construction then completed the repairs with specific attention to the historic materials. Six courses of historic brick were replaced with like materials, limestone stucco was reapplied to the exterior walls, and plaster reapplied to the damaged interior walls.
• Community Impact Award: Zemp Stadium, also presented to Dr. Robbins. The visitors’ bleachers at Zemp Stadium were in need of replacement and the school district took the opportunity to upgrade the stadium. The side of the stadium was redesigned to match the recently renovated City Arena next door. The project consisted of installing brand new bleachers, restrooms, stadium lighting and electrical infrastructure. The entrances were completely redesigned and the concession stand was designed so it could be used for events for the stadium and arena. The total project cost was $1.15 million.
In conjunction with the awards, council proclaimed May as National Historic Preservation Month.
In other business, council:
• proclaimed May 12-20 as National Police Week -- Camden Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford recognized “our law enforcement officers who are the guardians of life and property, defenders of the individual right be a free people, warriors in the war against crime, and dedicated to the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;”
• proclaimed May 18 as Kids to Parks Day -- Kids to Parks Day was organized and launched by the National Park Trust, and the proclamation urges families to take their children to a local, state or national park this Saturday, May 18;
• gave second and final readings of an ordinance rezoning the former Beechwood property on Knights Hill Road from a planned development district (PDD) to a master planned development (MPD) district -- the change to an MPD was made necessary by changes in state law since Beechwood was first designated a PDD, which will smooth the way for the Health Services District of Kershaw County to build a new Karesh Long Term Care Center on the property;
• gave second and final reading to an ordinance amending certain articles of the city’s zoning ordinance;
• approved a Leader’s Legacy bench recognition for Julia Baxter Cloninger Halford; and
• went into a brief executive session for the “receipt of legal advice relating to contractual matters.” No action was taken when council members returned to open session.