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Chapin's new mayor encouraged by glowing end of the year financial report

Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – The town of Chapin’s newly elected mayor and council received an end of the year financial report that showed that Chapin closed out 2017 in great financial condition. The report was given just a few weeks after a new mayor and administration was sworn in, and reflects the last fiscal year, 2017, managed by the administration that was led by the previous Mayor Skip Wilson. According to Laura Culler, the town’s director of finance and administration support, who gave the report, both the general fund and the utility department spent less in 2017 than they had budgeted and received, leaving them both with nice surpluses.

Culler told the council at the end of 2017 the general fund still had a positive balance of $187,706. In the case of that fund, revenue exceeded their expectations by coming in at 105% of what was budgeted for the year. Because the expenses were only 94% of what they had projected when preparing the budget, that left the town the cash in the bank.

The general fund receives its money to operate the town’s offices, pay employees, run the police department, keep the lights on, and provide other vital functions from a number of sources. Utilities like SCE&G and other service providers pay franchise fees. These are fees paid by the utility and are for the privilege of using the streets in the town for business purposes like running telephone, gas, or electric lines in a street or on public property. The fee is not a tax.

The people of Chapin do pay a small tax on their property as well. This is collected by Lexington County for them. Additionally, every business must obtain a business license to work in the town each year. This is not just brick and mortar businesses like Publix, it’s also plumbers, electricians, or even door-to-door salesmen that are trying to conduct any business in the town. The have to be renewed annually if you plan to stay in business in the coming year. There are also other small sources of income like police fines, sign permits, etc.

The utilities budget was in even better shape. In that case, the department ended up with a surplus for the year of $2,177,208.00 The books show the department took in $4,702,784.00 and actually only spent $2,525,576. This surplus can now be put back for emergencies, future construction, upgrades to infrastructure, or might even be able to help retire some debt early.

The utilities department makes their money by selling potable (drinking) water, taking away and treating waste water, and selling new taps for both of these. It can be a costly business, but can also be profitable if managed well.

In the case of Chapin, the Utilities Director Andy Metts has done a great job of staying on top of any problems with the system and maintaining it to the point that it has been profitable. That’s extremely important, given the fact that the town recently undertook the building of a new sewer treatment facility that will cost in excess of $12 million dollars to meet new DHEC discharge standards. The bulk of that construction is being paid by a loan from a state fund that the town will have to repay over time.

When speaking of utilities maintenance, it’s important to note that Metts has done things like pursue repayment from others when Chapin’s system is damaged at no fault of the town. As a case in point, recently a car ran through the fence that surrounds one of the town’s sewer pump stations, heavily damaging it. Metts and the utilities department pursued repayment from that driver’s insurance company for the destruction their insured caused; the town actually had money from that left to do other maintenance on the station because the repairs to the fence came in lower than estimated. There have been other times when these types of actions, things that could easily be overlooked, have landed the town on the plus side of a bad situation.

When asked his about his opinion of the reports and the 2017 finances, Chapin’s Mayor David Knight, who just took office earlier this month, said during a telephone interview, “It’s encouraging to have such a good financial outlook to start the new year.” Knight and the new council will not actually pass their first budget until the end of 2018.

An auditor has been hired by the mayor and administration and Culler is gathering all the necessary paperwork for them to perform their standard end-of-the-year look at the town's books. Audits are performed at the end of each fiscal year to ensure all the facts and figures are correct regarding the town's finances. For the past three or four years, auditors have found no discrepancies in Chapin's accounts.

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