Spartanburg residents voice concern over water dispute - WSPA.com

Spartanburg Residents Voice Concern Over Water Dispute

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Residents listen to Spartanburg's city manager Residents listen to Spartanburg's city manager
Both sides sit at the front of the 7 On Your Side / Herald-Journal Town Hall Both sides sit at the front of the 7 On Your Side / Herald-Journal Town Hall

A room full of Spartanburg taxpayers voiced their concerns Thursday night over a dispute between City Council and the Commission of Public Works.

The commission currently pays the city $1.4 million in cash every year. But that agreement expires in June.

The city wants the payments to continue at the current level, but the Public Works Commissioners

7 On Your Side and the Spartanburg Herald-Journal teamed up to host a town hall meeting.

Both sides made lengthy presentations documenting the financial difficulties of the past few years.

Afterward they took questions, but at the end of the meeting there still was no agreement.

"You haven't made us an offer that we could respond to," Mayor Junie White told the commission.

The offer is to cut the payment down to a value of $1 million. That would be made up of grants for economic development, waived costs for the city's water use and a smaller sum of cash.

The payments would also gradually get smaller each year.

"They're saying that they tried to negotiate with us, they did not. They sent us a document saying either you take this or nothing," Councilwoman Linda Dogan said.

The city manager said under the current proposal, the city is looking at a $900,000 budget gap for fiscal year 2014.

The mayor worries about big cuts to city services like police and fire as well as smaller programs.

But the commissioners don't think its their job to fund basic city needs if it means raising water rates.

"I hope we can work out something and get out of this situation, we've lost some big customers. Our flow has cut way down," commission chairman Myles Whitlock said.

Andrew Green lives in the city and is a finance professor. He though the city's argument was more compelling.

While he admits the water system has had challenges, he'd like to see a more gradual approach to cutting the payment to the city.

"I don't see in their financial statements an immediate financial crisis requiring them to do this," Green said.

At the end of the meeting both sides indicated they would like to sit down in the next week or so to talk again about the issue.

Monday's city council agenda includes a discussion about the Commission of Public Works agreement.

According to numbers provided by the city:

  • If the commission had to raise money to keep paying the city at the current level - the typical household would pay an additional $12 a year in water.
  • If the city lost the money and had to make up the deficit through a tax hike - an average home would see an increase of $63 a year in property taxes.

To read more about the city's argument click this link:http://www.cityofspartanburg.org/water-dividend

To read more about the Commission of Public Works argument click this link: http://www.sws-sssd.org/waterconversation/index.php

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