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Mayor breaks stalemate on Spencer’s proposed $2.5 million budget

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
SPENCER ó Members of the Spencer Board of Aldermen approved the town’s 2008-2009 budget Tuesday night, but it was a close call.
Only after Mayor Jody Everhart broke a 3-3 stalemate was the proposed budget given the aldermen’s blessing.
The mayor votes only in the event of a tie.
The budget is balanced, totals a shade more than $2.5 million and holds steady the town’s tax rate of 60 cents per $100 valuation.
Voting with Everhart in favor of the budget were aldermen Nick Bishop, Jeff Morris and C.E. Spear. Opposed were Scott Benfield, Donnie Hinson and Ken Womble.
Some fairly lively discussion ó and a variety of motions ó preceded the budget’s approval.
The budget was presented by Town Manager Larry Smith. It provides a 3 percent cost of living raise for town employees and a replacement vehicle for the police department.
“We do not have the funds or the manpower to achieve all of our goals,” Smith said. “However, this budget prioritizes funding into the areas established by this administration and the board of aldermen.”
Alderman Bishop made an initial motion to approve the budget as Smith presented it, but that motion died for the lack of a second.
Alderman Benfield then made a motion that was seconded by Womble that the town’s tax rate be reduced to 58 cents per $100 valuation.
No one else voted in favor of that motion and the board appeared at an impasse.
“We’ll set another workshop,” Everhart suggested, referring to a budget workshop that board members involved themselves with last month.
By state law, municipalities must approve budgets for the coming fiscal year by June 30.
Board members finally approved a motion to discuss the budget.
Alderman Hinson then suggested two things ó the deletion of the $26,000 police car from the budget and a six-month moratorium on new hires in all departments.
Hinson said he didn’t feel the purchase of a new patrol car was necessary. He made a motion to delete the purchase and his motion was seconded by Benfield.
But no other aldermen supported the motion.
Bishop said he felt purchasing a single police car this year might prevent the town from having to purchase multiple cars in a single year in the future.
“We’ve tried to spread capital expenditures over time,” Bishop said. “Not too many extremes.”
Spear noted that the town once got behind in the purchase of patrol cars and had to buy three in a single year.
Mayor Pro Tem Morris agreed that not purchasing a single car this year might come back to haunt the town.
“I don’t believe taking (the purchase) out of the budget would benefit us if we had to get two next year,” Morris said.
Board members did, however, approve the six-month hiring freeze.
With that rider included, Morris made a motion that the budget be approved. His motion was backed by Bishop and the budget eventually approved.
At the end of Monday’s meeting, several board members explained their reasons for voting as they did.
Benfield said he ran for office on a platform of working to cut taxes. He said he felt lower tax rates would attract more businesses to Spencer.
“I’m not trying to pick on any particular department,” Benfield said.
Womble made reference to all the aldermen running for office in order to cut taxes, a reference that Bishop cut short by saying, “Not all of us.”
Morris said he never promised to either cut or raise taxes. “I only promised to be fiscally responsible,” he said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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