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Utility rates climb as city passes budget

Council OKs intersection project in split vote

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

City taxes won’t be going up or down this year, but utility rates will nudge higher this year.
The Lincolnton City Council unanimously approved City Manager Jeff Emory’s proposed 2012-2013 budget during its meeting Thursday night.
With the vote will come a water and sewer rate increase of 4 percent — 2 percent for industrial or textile-based — and an 8.1 percent increase in electric rates as of July 1, though the current 56-cent property tax will remain the same.
Earlier in the day at a work session, council members decided on one last-minute change to the budget when they voted 3-1, with council member Devin Rhyne in opposition, to reinstate funding for an intersection-improvement project at Generals Boulevard and Main Street.
As a result, the city will fund a $116,000 match in return for grant money for the project.
Rhyne expressed concern with spending money on the intersection improvement while simultaneously raising the water and sewer rate for citizens.
Also in the next fiscal year’s budget is funding for grants for the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport, with which council members had previously struggled.
Though the budget calls for splitting up the matching grants, costing in total $285,000, over a two-year period, Emory recommended that the city provide no more grant matches to the airport in the foreseeable future.
Additionally, in line with the council’s sentiment that the airport needs to become more self-sustaining, Mayor John Gilleland requested that airport executives provide the council with a sales plan before Thanksgiving, showing how they plan to increase revenue annually.
In addressing potential cost reductions during the morning meeting, Emory told the council that he believes he will be able to cut overtime expenses by roughly $60,000 after having met with city department heads. Rhyne had brought up the issue of employee overtime pay at a previous budget work session.
Council members also discussed potentially charging fees for big events in downtown to go toward reimbursement for the city, as well as the possibility of charging for garbage pickup in the future.
Now approved, next year’s budget stands at $28,064,866.
Also during Thursday evening’s regular monthly meeting:
Council members unanimously approved applicant James Cook’s request for a conditional-use rezoning of .58 acres of land to allow for a fabrication shop on the south side of N.C. 150 West, not far from the intersection with Laboratory Road.
Council members unanimously approved adopting a resolution endorsing the Lincoln County Solid Waste Management Plan, as presented by Jason Wager, sustainability program manager for the Centralina Council of Governments.
Council members unanimously signed off on a policy regarding retirement receptions for city employees.
Council members unanimously approved the 2012-2013 salary schedule and the schedule of budgeted positions — neither of which had changes — in addition to the order of collection for the next fiscal year’s taxes.
Planning Director Laura Simmons gave an update on Phase III of the Marcia H. Cloninger Rail-Trail Project, noting that approval from the state of the revised construction plans has been received. Bids are expected to open June 21, with approval of a contract potentially set for the July 5 council meeting.

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