Salem city clerk resigns position effective May 15
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
SALEM — Salem is searching for a new city clerk.
Current City Clerk Brenda Carver submitted her resignation, effective May 15, during a special council meeting last night.
Carver, who succeeded Carolyn Bolin as clerk Jan. 1, 2012, said job stress figured heavily into her decision. “I suffer from a medical condition triggered by stress, and the stress has had an impact on my health. My doctors have been urging me to quit. I’m sorry, but I have to think of myself first.”
She said she was giving a month’s notice because “there are a lot of things that have to happen (before she leaves),” adding that it will also give her time to train her replacement.
With the exception of Councilman Gary Tedrow thanking Carver for her service, the council did not have any reaction.
Carver’s resignation came at the conclusion of the special meeting which also included a public hearing and approval of the fiscal 2013-14 city budget. By state law, budgets must be filed by March 15 but Salem received a 30-day extension. The budget had to be filed with the county by 9 a.m. this morning.
Although the property tax levy included in the published budget estimate from both 2012 and 2013 reflects an increase from $11.15 per $1,000 taxable valuation for fiscal 2013 to $13.20 per $1,000 taxable valuation for fiscal 2014, or an 18-percent increase, council members were more concerned about the $18,060 increase in funding for the fire department.
“The county sets the property tax (levy),” answered Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Kramer, who led the meeting in the absence of Mayor Linda Ward. “The only issue I had is the fire department has asked for $18,000 more.”
“The city has no control over it (tax levy),” agreed Kelly Patterson, a former mayor.
Resident Kathy Hites said she was concerned about the increase in the levy. Coupled with the increase, the residential property tax rollback went from 50.75 to 52.81 for property taxes paid beginning in September 2013. That means residential property that was taxed at 50.75 of its assessed valuation the past budget year now will be taxed at 52.81 percent of its assessed valuation, or a 2.6 percent increase tacked on to the levy increase.
With the levy increase, a home with a taxable valuation of $40,000 will pay an additional $80 annually in city taxes. A business with a taxable valuation of $75,000 will pay $150 more in taxes during the next budget year.
Salem’s published budget estimate the past two fiscal years has projected property tax revenue at $49,299. For fiscal 2014, the city is expecting $62,889 in property tax money. That reflects a 27.5 percent increase in property tax. Coupled with the increase in the levy and the change in the residential rollback, the change in assessed valuation also factors into the increase in property tax dollars.
Nearly one-third of the city’s projected expenditures, which total $137,995 for fiscal 2014, will go to the fire department.
“We don’t have money for it (increase in the fire department’s budget),” Kramer said.
Resident Jeannine Eltrich said the fire department deserves the support of the council and community. “On the subject of the fire department, I am listening to what the fire chief is saying,” she began. “We have people on the front lines defending us. They need good equipment.”
Fire Chief Steve Nichting was not at the meeting but said in his budget request which he presented to the council several months ago that he was asking for the increase to build a reserve fund.
“I am proposing giving the fire department $30,000,” Kramer said. “I can’t see spending money before we need to. We can’t give them $18,000 to put away when we need $20,000 for a new well…We have three or four (people) here who are not in favor of that large of an increase for the fire department. I think it is quite a bit of an increase compared to the rest of the budget. However, the budget is just a guideline.”
During the budget hearing, conversation and discussion expanded to other topics. Hites asked about the recent sidewalk replacement on the west side of the square. “When you were talking about sidewalk repair, you said you would assess property owners. Why did you pay for all of it (repair) on the square?”
Councilman Warren Barton said that was his idea, adding that his decision was based on the fact that many community members walk on that portion of sidewalk and he wanted the sidewalk safe and appealing.
Kramer said the project was talked about for nearly a year. “We decided we would do it out of local option (sales) tax,” he began. “I thought everybody was in agreement on that…We decided to do it from local option money because it was better than to split hairs on who was going to pay for it.”
Carver said the budget could be amended at any time. City Attorney Patrick Brau, however, quickly pointed out that the council must state a reason if they do amend the budget and it must be amended within the legal parameters.
Salem council members meet again in regular session Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m. in the Community Building.