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County to hear from public on budget

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

Lincoln County residents looking to voice their opinions on the proposed 2012-2013 budget may do so tonight at the meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
County Manager George Wood presented his budget at the board’s previous meeting, with commissioners also having met for a special work session May 23 to discuss it further.
During that session, the board wrestled with proposed tax increases for citizens residing in the East Lincoln Water and Sewer District and both the Union and East Lincoln fire districts.
As it stands now, the budget calls for the ELWS tax rate to rise from 1.99 cents to 3.55 cents, an increase necessary to pay off the debt on the sewer system. In previous years, the county avoided a tax hike by using savings set aside for the system. However, Wood said those funds have primarily dried up, and extending the debt repayment is not an option due to the bonds expiring.
According to projections, the rate would gradually decrease over the next five years, with the debt scheduled to be fully repaid by the end of fiscal year 2017.
At that time, as a result of a 2007 agreement, the ELWS District would be dissolved, and the tax rate would no longer be imposed on properties within the district.
Residents of the East Lincoln Fire District could also see their tax rate increase from 6.8 cents to 7.85 cents, while those in the Union Fire District may see an increase from 7.5 to 9 cents in order to cover those volunteer fire department budgets.
However, commissioners noted during their work session that they would like to discuss the two departments’ proposed budgets in more detail before moving forward.
Wood’s budget currently calls for the countywide property tax rate of 59.8 cents to remain the same, though some commissioners expressed interest in seeing that rate cut, if possible.
The board also weighed a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for county employees at the session, with Commissioner George Arena saying he had a problem with giving employees a raise while 24 teaching positions were being cut due to the expiration of federal stimulus grant money.
An additional work session to finalize the budget will be scheduled before it is voted upon.
Also during tonight’s meeting, several other public hearings will be conducted, including one on the Rural Operating Assistance Program and the 2012 Lincoln County Solid Waste Management Plan Update, as well as a hearing on a proposed name for a private road off of Salem Church Road.
These are in addition to four zoning cases set to be heard, one of which is on a request for a conditional-use permit to establish a proposed 48-acre solar power generation facility on N.C. 27 in North Brook Township.
There will also be a conditional-use permit request heard from Dellinger Properties to operate an events venue at the Laboratory Mill on Southfork Road in Lincolnton, which has recently undergone renovations.
Other items on tonight’s agenda include:
Assistant County Manager Martha Lide will present an update on county fuel purchases.
Commissioners will consider allocating ABC funds for the operation of a Halfway House for Women that would begin operation in July.
Commissioners will weigh a Special Events and Mass Gathering Ordinance.
Commissioners will consider a resolution requesting the closing of a portion of Reep Brothers Road.
A grant agreement for $15,000 from NCDENR for a landfill recycling building will be weighed by the board.
Commissioners will consider an amendment to their agreement with Norman Pointe Development regarding sewer pump station payments.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Citizens Center and is open to the public.

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