The city conducted the first reading of its proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget Monday night.
The budget year begins July 1 and calls for no increases in its millage rate for both the Cherokee and Pickens county sides of the city.
The council is set to have the second and final reading during its July 2 meeting.
The proposed budget has revenues and expenditures set at $320,800, which was one of five proposals the city had been considering in light of news it had been operating in the red for the last eight years.
City leaders will now work to make sure it can cut enough expenses to match the revenues.
For the past eight years, the city’s expenditures have exceeded $400,000 while its revenues have hovered in the mid-$300,000 range, according to a report revealed to the council last month.
Councilman Jonathan Bishop made the proposal for the budget, which eliminates travel expenses, slashes money set aside for the city clerk, mayor and council and municipal court judge training, and cuts maintenance, custodial and sanitation services.
The city is eyeing whether to outsource its custodial, sanitation and maintenance services to help make up for the budget shortfall.
Bishop said the city would actually be worse off if it did not receive revenue from Pickens County’s Local Option Sales Tax.
However, he said the city is not out of the woods just yet.
“We may have to raise tax rates if we want any of these services back,” he said, referring to the proposal to cut some of the city’s services.
Councilman Jackie Jarrett, who supports the city keeping its trash collection services, said it appeared the city may have to “go back to the drawing board” to do more cuts.
Jarrett proposed furloughing City Clerk Brandy Edwards one day as well as closing Nelson City Hall for at least one day, which received a generally cool reception from the council as a whole.
“There’s a lot of areas we can look at,” he said.
Residents who attended the meeting didn’t hold back on how they felt about the city’s financial troubles.
Lamar Kellett, chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said he didn’t agree with Jarrett’s proposal to close City Hall and furlough employees to plug a budget hole.
He added he didn’t believe raising the millage rate would “send everyone to the poor house” and added he hasn’t heard a “real uproar” on the possibility of a millage rate increase.
Resident Michael Brown added the city should keep its sanitation services, but noted he believed Nelson needed to market its services.
“You’ve got to give them something to look forward to,” he said of enticing residents to subscribe.
Edith Portillo, a candidate for the city’s July 31 special election to fill the unexpired term of Larry Sellers, added she was “totally opposed” to raising taxes, noting there was a lot she thought the city could cut from its budget.
“Everything nowadays is solved by raising taxes,” she added.
In other business, the Nelson City Council set qualifying for candidates to fill the unexpired term of Mayor David Leister, who resigned last week to run for the Pickens County tax commissioner seat.
Qualifying will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday Aug. 1 and Thursday Aug. 2 and from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday Aug. 3 at the Pickens County Board of Elections and Registration in Jasper.
Qualifying fee will be $25 and will be held at the Pickens County Elections office in Jasper.
The special election will be held on Nov. 6.