Topics at City Ward Meetings Included Finances, Workforce, Paving, Police & Neighborhood Services
Finances, Workforce, Paving, Police and Neighborhood Services Among Topics at City Ward Meetings
Last night, Rock Hill City Council completed six citizen information and engagement ward meetings throughout the city. Hosted by each ward’s council representative, the meetings served as an opportunity to update citizens on projects and initiatives, and answer questions. For the benefit of those who weren’t able to attend, important points are outlined below. For the full presentation, click the link above.
Financial Transparency and Utility Rates
The City annually compares water, wastewater, electric and tax rates to the rates of 28 other cities in the region. In the overall comparison, the City of Rock Hill ranks 14th. While the goal is to keep utility rates as low as possible, it is important that rates support the continued maintenance of the utility system. There was no electric utility rate increase this year or projected for 2018. Very minor increases are anticipated in the near future, especially when compared to double-digit percentage increases expected for regional utility providers.
The City’s general fund financial bond ratings – rated AA by both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s – are among the best in the state. These independent agencies review the City’s entire business portfolio and accounting, including debt. While the City of Rock Hill does enter into debt to complete major projects all across the city, our debt total is consistent with other cities. On a per capita basis, the City’s general obligation debt, or debt supported by property taxes, is $216 per person, lower than any similarly sized city in the region. By comparison, that figure is $576 per person for York County. Similarly, Rock Hill ranked second to last in Utility System debt when compared to similar cities with utility systems.
All City of Rock Hill financial data is available online at cityofrockhill.com/transparency.
Mayor Echols concluded, “Our finances are strong, and our commitment to transparency is clear.”
The City of Rock Hill employees approximately 900 people who serve in all aspects of the city operations, from electric line workers to parks staff to customer service representatives. The city accepts on average 110 applications for every vacancy, indicating positions at the City are highly sought after. Customer service is prioritized at all levels of the organization, so this is a key focus in hiring and evaluating employees. The City also maintains a very diverse workforce, outpacing the US Department of Labor benchmarks for our region, as well as all other major governmental entities in the area.
Street maintenance and stormwater issues are important to residents and businesses. The City owns and maintains approximately 200 miles of roads in the City limits, while the State owns and is responsible for maintaining about 225 miles of roads within the City. Information about street ownership is available at cityofrockhill.com/streets.
Based on citizen input, City Council prioritized funding for City-owned road maintenance, increasing the budget for paving from $300,000 in 2011 to $1,385,000 this fiscal year. The funding increase has yielded positive results, with over 50% of city roads now rated in good condition and only 9% as poor. To compare, about 31% of state-owned roads are rated in good condition, while 37% of state-owned roads in our community are rated “poor.” Mayor Echols added, “The City of Rock Hill is doing all it can to ensure our roads are safe and well-maintained. Council’s continued commitment to increase the paving funds, along with the addition of two pothole trucks, has made a significant positive impact on the condition of City-owned roads.”
Several stormwater projects are currently underway throughout the city. A citizen advisory board helps set priorities for the schedule of projects. While residents may not always see construction in their immediate neighborhood, projects in neighborhoods upstream, along with regional projects in highly traveled areas of the city, will have positive impacts citywide. The City monitors the effects of all of these projects on an ongoing basis to ensure customer concerns are addressed in a timely way.
In the last few years, more officers have been added to help increase the number of patrol zones to 10, and decrease the size of each zone. Smaller zones help lower response times and allow officers to spend more time in the neighborhoods they serve. Recent statistics on violent crime and property crime show downward trends.
As part of the strategic plan, the police department closely monitors response times for priority one calls, or those involving armed robbery or breaking and entering in progress. In the past two years, the department exceeded the five-minute target for priority one responses, last year responding to 89% within that time frame.
The City has been working to implement body-worn cameras for police officers since early 2015, and recently the cameras were deployed across the department. Officers are very supportive of the program.
Rock Hill Police Department understands the importance of community engagement and relationship-building as an effective tool for law enforcement. Rock Hill officers and staff participated in over 350 community events in the past year alone.
Housing and Neighborhood Services (HNS)
The City, in partnership with the Housing Development Corporation of Rock Hill (HDCRH), works to help low-income families with home down payment assistance up to $5,000. In addition, the city and HDCRH work to build affordable housing units and maintain low-income rentals across the city. For those who own their home but need help with maintenance, the City helps coordinate rehabilitation programs throughout the city. HNS also helps ensure the quality of neighborhoods with proactive inspections to alert residents about potential problems and enforce the city’s codes and ordinances. The empowerment division helps neighborhood associations connect to the city, and keeps neighborhoods informed about city projects and programs.
Mayor Echols summarized, “The projects and issues presented during these ward meetings are just a small sampling of the great work that City employees do every day. The City of Rock Hill is always on and strives to be a place where we provide quality services, develop quality places and foster a quality community, all while remaining financially strong.”
Neighborhood Meetings Flier