City OKs budget;

First Posted: 1/15/2009

some fees climb,
tax rate steady

LUMBERTON - The Lumberton City Council approved a $66 million budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 that increases the city's water and sewer fees and electricity rates.
The tax rate remains at 65 cents per $100 valuation.
City Manager Todd Powell issued a warning to some of the agencies receiving money that next year's budget might not be so generous. The new budget includes about $1 million in funding for outside agencies such as the Carolina Civic Center, the Robeson County Public Library and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Robeson County.
“One of the overriding issues in this year's budget process was the city's funding of outside agencies, boards and commissions,” Powell said. “Funding for those entities has not been reduced, however, council has stated that it will begin reviewing these funding levels for the 2005-2006 fiscal year with an eye to reducing those funding levels.”
The rate increases for water and sewer usage take effect on July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year, but the electricity rate hike was delayed until Jan. 1. The water and sewer base rates remain the same, but the rates after 1,000 gallons of usage climb by 10 cents per 1,000 gallons.
The hike in the city's electricity rate is a response to a 2.5 percent increase from the city's supplier, Electric Cities. The increase will be spread over three years, beginning in January, when non-residential users will get a 1 percent increase. In January 2006, all users will see a 2 percent increase and, in June 2006, non-residential users will see another 1 percent increase. Then there will be another 1 percent increase for all users in June 2007.
The budget also includes the possibility of a $1 per month increase in garbage fees if the city has to pay for the cleanup of a hurricane or a major ice storm.
City employees will get a raise in the new budget, which calls for a 1.5 percent increase across the board, on top of a 5 percent raise for the five lowest pay grades, which includes councilmembers, and a 2.5 percent raise for pay grades 6 through 18.
The new spending plan also increases the amount of Community Revitalization Funds for each council member and the mayor, from $3,000 to $5,000 per year. That money is used for community projects.

Public hearing
The council held a public hearing on a request by JJ&K Co. for a conditional-use permit for a planned townhouse development on Cliffridge Drive. Johnny Powers, one of the developers, told the council he wants to subdivide the townhouse lots, which would be sold individually.
Plans presented by Powers and builder Cecil West call for 23 units of two- and three-bedroom townhouses. But ArTriel Askew, interim planning director, told the council that the plans don't include enough common area - space that can be used by residents for something like a playground - under the city's zoning ordinances.
Powell told the council that the ordinance that determines the amount of required common area is ambiguous when applied to townhouses, and that the ordinance needs to be reviewed Meanwhile, the developers can address the need by changing the design to allow for more space or by applying for an allowance from the Board of Adjustments, he said.
The council referred the request to the Planning Board for a recommendation.
In other business, the council:
- Tabled a rezoning request for property at 4402 Cricklewood St. Councilman Bruce Davis made the motion on the grounds that one of the property's owners, Grady Simmons Sr., had died.
- Accepted a $75,000 Urgent Repair Grant from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. The grant will be used for home repairs for low-income homeowners with special needs and requires a $4,500 match from the city. About $3,500 is spent per house. Residents can apply for assistance through the Community Development Block Grant program at City Hall.

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