Town of East Spencer considering $5.1 million budget with some cuts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 13, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

EAST SPENCER — The town of East Spencer is considering a $5.1 million budget with some cuts, including new police and fire vehicles, said Town Administrator James Bennett.

Bennett said the 2020-21 fiscal year budget is balanced and the police and fire vehicle cuts total $30,000. He told the board during a Tuesday budget workshop — the second this month — that the town, like many others, could expect lower revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Based on this current time, we are looking at 1/3 less income tax revenue. It makes sense that we should try to find ways to make cuts. It would be in our interest to plan for the worst,” Bennett said.

He said East Spencer is not the only town looking at ways to make cuts. And it’s not clear, he said, if the federal government is going to give funding to municipalities in another phase of relief funding.

Mayor Barbara Mallett said the town has taken a hit in property taxes and its water bills. She said some people are out of work and not able to pay their water bill and Gov. Roy Cooper has asked municipalities and those who provide utilities and other similar services to not penalize customers.

Also on the line for a possible cut was the part-time East Spencer Public Works crew. Bennett suggested the two part-time workers be reduced to working seven to nine months out of the year.

The board members could not come to an agreement, and the part-time crew will remain in place.

Bennett argued that the crew did not do that much work and often is seen sitting around “doing nothing” when he arrives to work. Bennett said he spoke with a previous East Spencer town administrator who said the positions were seasonal anyway.

If those positions were made seasonal, Bennett said, the town could see a reduction in costs of between $12,000 to $15,000. Bennett said the town is are also paying retirement benefits for the two part-time employees, which he believed the town could do without paying.

Aldermen John Noble and Albert Smith both said they didn’t think the town should pay retirement for part-time employees. Town Attorney Jeff Morris said he believed there was a threshold put into place that would allow the town to pay retirement for part-time employees.

If the work isn’t being done, Alderman Dwayne Holmes said, then as the town administrator that issue falls to Bennett.

Bennett said the town wasn’t getting the work it should from the part-time staff.

“That’s what the supervisor is for,” Noble said.

Bennett said the issue was not a personnel matter and Holmes argued it was.

The board will have a public hearing at its June 1 budget meeting to be held at 6 p.m. in town hall.