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Proposed China Grove budget has no employee raises, but no layoffs

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó The town’s proposed 2009-2010 budget has no raises for town employees, but no layoffs, either.
Aldermen held their first work session Thursday evening on the general fund portion of 2010 budget.
Town Manager Bill Pless said his goal is to provide services but to avoid spending the town’s savings or eliminating positions.
“No (cost-of-living raises), no merit increases, no layoffs,” Pless said.
And the goal of the board is to keep the tax rate at the current 38 cents per $100 valuation.
For the first time in at least five years, the budget would dip into fund balance to support the general fund operations ó police, fire, streets, parks and recreation, planning, administration and public works.
The budget includes using $57,000 in savings, but Mayor Don Bringle suggested more cuts can be made to eliminate spending any fund balance.
Early on, Bringle identified one possible area for cuts. Pointing out the Rowan-Salisbury School System plans to drop its 50 percent funding of the middle school resource officer, Bringle said he doesn’t think the town should pick up the tab.
Alderman Allen Welter said the resource officer is needed at the middle school.
Bringle asked Pless to find out what the county and other towns are doing about funding resource officers.
Finance Director Mary Jo Bopp said a grant could pay the school system’s share if the application is successful.
Aldermen spent slightly more than an hour going through the 23 pages, asking questions and making suggestions for some cuts.
Here’s a summary of some issues:
– Sales tax revenue is down about $60,000 this year. The town had budgeted $729,000, but will collect around $669,000. The 2010 budget will use the reduced figure.
– Agreed the town needs to get a newer model car for the fire chief. Aldermen Lee Withers described the used Crown Victoria as a piece of junk that emits fumes that leave driver and passengers “swimmy-headed.” And it gets about four miles per gallon of gasoline.
– Officials questioned why the cost of holding municipal elections has more than doubled ó from $1,500 to $3,300, a figure provided by the county elections office.
– They also questioned why the town’s legal fees almost doubled during the current year, going from $4,800 to $9,200. Officials concluded it was a result of the Zoning Board of Adjustments case pending in court.
– Bringle questioned various categories of miscellaneous funds and why the amounts increased substantially from the current spending.
– Officials were pleased with a nearly $5,000 drop in the cost of cell phones and pagers for the fire department.
Bopp said the fire department canceled a contract for pagers that became unnecessary.
– The board tackles the water and sewer portion of the budget next Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Community Memorial Building.
The funds are running in the red this year due to continued reductions in water usage.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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