City of Florence finishes 2015 with budget surplus

City of Florence finishes 2015 with budget surplus

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The city of Florence is going into the new year with a surplus of about 1.3 million dollars. Florence mayor, Stephen Wukela says the city has been waiting for revenue to come back  for almost eight years now and it's been a slow process, but the city believe it's the right one.

"I certainly speak from my office when I say that throughout my tenure and this council has always desired to have a very conservative approach to revenue projections and to expenditures. That's going to continue. It's certainly been the approach of our staff, city manager and our finance department," said Wukela.

That approach has allowed construction and re-investment to grow in downtown Florence. Hotels, restaurants and retail projects are on the rise and once the new apartment complex off Evan's street is done… there will be even more development. City manager, Drew Griffin says hospitality dollars are what city council want to see from the district near David McLeod boulevard.

"It grows every year. All you have to do is look out at I95 and 52, and I95 and I20 to see all the hotels that have been built there the past five years. You can see the impact of hospitality for the Florence area, it is amazingly strong," Griffin said.

This surplus isn't just from re-occurring tax dollars or from business licenses annually, but from unexpected one time payments into the budget. Griffin said, "We are self-funded and we do that through the municipal association and if they have a good year and it appears that they are going to have a surplus, they will push that money back to us. That has happened in the last two years. Those reimbursements have been to the tune of about three hundred thousand dollars and those are unplanned, so those are part of that surplus."

An additional unplanned payment Florence just received was a FEMA reimbursement of close to half a million dollars from last year's ice storm. This money also adds to the city not being able to re-hire employees at a normal rate or give raises since the recession eight years ago.

Wukela says, "The city of course gets benefit from not paying an employee in that position for at least six months or so and over five hundred or so employees, that's a significant amount of budget savings. When you see a small increase in revenues it's a pleasant surprise."

Mayor Wukela hopes these revenues will continue so Florence can hire back full employment in the city and can start giving raises again.

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