Only three members of the Charleston City Council are opposed to the city’s $146 million spending plan for 2011, but each railed against the proposed budget last week. Regardless, the budget received preliminary approval from the majority of council and will likely face final consideration Dec. 21.

Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, a former mayoral candidate, charged that Mayor Joe Riley was shuffling dollars around instead of making real cuts in spending. Riley countered that more than $4 million had to be cut from the budget to make room to restore staff salaries that were cut last year and for vehicle and equipment purchases for public safety and public works.

Councilman Dean Reigel supported the budget, but pressed for a stronger focus next year on alternative revenue sources. Councilman Timmy Mallard, a business real estate agent, said the city’s focus should be on economic development.

“We need an effort,” he said, calling for an Economic Development committee. “We’ve got great spaces, but we’ve got no effort.”

Mayor Riley noted the tech-hub success of the Flagship program, which provides startups with affordable office space, and the city’s incubator partnership at the South Carolina Research Authority and the Medical University of South Carolina Innovation Center. The city also drew BenefitFocus away from Mt. Pleasant.

“We worked hard to bring them here,” Riley said. “It wasn’t magic.”

Gergorie, Mallard, and Jimmy Gallant voted against the budget. —Greg Hambrick