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City to review budget proposal

Lincolnton residents will be able to comment on the city’s proposed $27.4 million budget at the City Council’s June 3 meeting.
The budget submitted by City Manager Jeff Emory includes a 12.5 percent increase in water and sewer fees but keeps the property tax the same.
The budget holds the line on operating expenses and capital expenditures and does not cut city services.
The $27.4 million budget is about $2.8 million more than 2003-04. That increase is directly attributed to the City Hall and Lincolnton Fire Department expansion. Without that additional expense, the budget would actually show a decrease.
The property tax will remain 51 cents per $100 valuation. The 2004 revaluation showed an approximate 11 percent overall increase in the city’s tax valuation.
Emory said in his budget message that the city cannot afford to decrease the property tax rate, because next year it will begin repaying the loan from the Electric Fund for the City Hall/Fire Station project.
“I believe it would be wise to maintain the rate at its current amount, rather than having to increase the rate within the next year or so,” the message says.
Emory said in the future it will be necessary for the city to explore other means of income, pointing specifically to possibly implementing a fee for sanitation.
Money brought in from the property tax doesn’t cover expenses for the police and fire departments, Emory said, let alone the other departments. Added to stagnate sales tax revenues and relatively constant franchise fees, Emory said the need for additional revenue sources is “critical.”
Other highlights:
· City employees will receive a 2.5 percent cost of living increase.
· Though capital outlay has been cut this year, some of the city’s larger expenses include continuation of the Marcia Cloninger Rail-Trail; four new vehicles for the Police Department; and continuation of the store front and substantial building grant program administered through Business and Community Development.
· About 1.19 percent of the general fund is dedicated to travel and training expenses. Emory said travel and training opportunities for employees are critical to having the “most highly trained staff possible.”
· What residents pay for electric service will not increase, despite a 1 percent wholesale increase to the city.
· The tax rate for the Recreation Fund will remain .05 cents per $100 of valuation.
The City Council will hold an additional budget work session prior to the public hearing. No date has been set. The June 3 meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Commissioners Room of the James W. Warren Citizens Center. Council members have the final say on the budget.by Alice Smith

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