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China Grove looks ahead to budget season

CHINA GROVE — As the State Bureau of Investigation continues its criminal probe into town finances in Landis, officials from neighboring China Grove are looking ahead to the budget season with increased scrutiny.

“The most important thing we do as a council is work on the budget,  set the budget” Mayor Lee Withers said at a board meeting Tuesday night. “In light of things that are happening in the news, I would say it’s very important to make sure that we do our job and hold a budget meeting if not more.”

He said the town usually holds two or three meetings before approving the budget.

“We pass a budget that is responsible, we pass a budget that staff feels like they can do their job with and then we hold staff accountable to that budget,” Withers said.

The town needs to pass its budget June 30, he said, and advertise to the public for a minimum of 10 days before a public hearing to approve it.

Council members voted to schedule their first budget meeting at 4 p.m. May 7, before the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting.

“I want to tear the whole budget down,” said council member Arthur Heggins.

Town Manager Ken Deal will present the council with a recommended, revenue-neutral budget, as well as information on all department heads’ requests for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Deal said a revenue-neutral property tax rate would be 54 cents per $100 valuation. Right now, the rate is 58 cents per $100.

“Revenue neutral” means the town would generate the same amount of revenue it had during the prior budget year.

Deal said the town staff is hopeful that more revenue growth would come with the completion of a new housing development and the new interchange on Interstate 85.

In other business:

• The council discussed exploring moving downtown utility lines underground.

Lines would be fed underground from Franklin Street under current plans. The project could cost close to $1 million to move all utilities, such as Windstream and Duke Energy Corp.

An estimate provided in March by Duke Energy said the project could cost $692,000 plus or minus 25% to relocate power lines alone.

Council members decided to explore the project at a later date as the council goes through the budgeting process.

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