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Proposed budget to go before public

The Lincolnton City Council held its second budget work session Tuesday and agreed to put the city manager’s proposed budget up for public hearing June 3.
No changes have been made to the budget since it was drafted, City Manager Jeff Emory said.
The $27.4 million budget keeps the property tax rate at 51 cents per $100 valuation and holds the recreation tax at 5 cents. But since 2004 was a revaluation year, it will mean most city property owners will pay more.
The proposed budget increases water and sewer rates by 12.5 percent. That increase is necessary to retire the debt the city accrued by taking on about $40 million in major capital improvement projects like the waste water treatment plant upgrade and water plant expansion, Emory said.
Emory defended his proposals and said the only expenditure the city has left to cut would be in personnel.
The proposed budget minus the $4.2 million City Hall/Fire Department project is actually less than the previous year’s, Emory said. Capital spending has been cut “basically to nothing,” and operating costs remain the same.
“I’ve spent hours going over this budget,” Emory said, adding that significant cuts would require difficult decisions.
“I’ve gone through it over and over and over. Unless you want to get into the area of personnel, I don’t know what else to do.”
Salaries and insurance for city employees account for about 68 percent of the city’s general fund.
Much of the discussion Tuesday centered around a request from the Business and Community Development department.
Emory said he had received a letter from Brad Guth, the department’s director, asking the council to roll over unused funds from 2003-04 into the 2004-05 budget. The money would go into a loan pool that would fund various projects.
Emory has already recommended $197,600 go to the department, about $100,000 less than what was requested.
Council voted unanimously to table the issue until the June 3 meeting.
Councilman Larry Mac Hovis said he thought Business and Community Development would eventually have to become more self-sufficient.
“I’m for the program 100 percent, and I was for the program eight years ago, and I’m still for the program …” Hovis said. “If they want the program to stay in effect, they’ll have to come up with some kind of program to help.”
A Business Improvement District that would have taxed downtown property owners 25 cents per $100 valuation was proposed in 2002. It would have generated about $50,000, but it was largely opposed by property owners. The issue was not re-revisited after a public meeting Aug. 26.
The public hearing on the proposed 2004-05 budget will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 3 in the Commissioners Room of the James W. Warren Citizens Center.
Residents can look at a copy of the proposed budget by going to the temporary City Hall building at 236 E. Main St.by Alice Smith

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