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City may reduce hikes in water and sewer rate

When Lincolnton’s proposed budget goes up for public hearing Thursday, the water and sewer rate increase might not be as large as expected.
Rates were initially expected to rise by 12.5 percent in order to pay off the city’s $40 million in capital improvements.
But the city now has the possibility of restructuring its loan and extending it four more years to lower the payments and provide some relief to residents, City Manager Jeff Emory said Tuesday.
The restructuring would give the city 20 instead of 16 years to pay back a $10 million loan.
Rates will still have to rise, but residents could see an 8.5 percent increase instead of the projected 12.5 percent.
“It doesn’t make it go away, but it helps some,” Emory said.
Last year, rates rose by 6 percent and they could increase again next year. The city did not raise rates in 2001 and 2002 in response to economic conditions and to help industries, which are the city’s largest customers.
That move was one of the factors the state looked at when considering this proposal, Emory said.
“They know that we’ve taken such measures to help our larger industrial customers, and they thought this would be a big benefit to them,” he said.
The deal isn’t concrete yet. Council members will consider the option during Thursday’s meeting.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Commissioners Room of the James W. Warren Citizens Center.
The city’s proposed $27.4 million budget maintains the 51 cent property tax and 5 cent recreation tax. But with 2004 being a revaluation year, it will still mean higher property taxes for many residents.
The city’s operating budget stays the same, and there is a decrease in capital spending. Minus the $4.2 million City Hall/Fire Department expansion, the budget is actually less than last year.
It includes a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment for city employees.
The Arts Council, Theater Guild, Historical Association, LEDA, Cultural Center, Communities in Schools and the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport will get more money than last year if the budget is approved.
Downtown development is expected to be a hot topic during the meeting. Rumors have swirled that a group of residents will ask the council to cut funding for the DDA. Supporters of the program are rallying and say they’ll be at the meeting to voice their concerns.Anyone can speak during the budget public hearing. After the hearing, the council will consider adopting the budget ordinance.by Alice Smith

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