MAXTON — The Board of Commissioners here gave initial approval Tuesday to a more than $3 million fiscal year 2020-21 budget that includes a 2% cost-of-living increase for town employees and does not call for increases in taxes or fees.
The $3,029,385 spending plan also accounts for a 4% increase in the cost of insurance offered to employees and tax revenue lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our budget workshop, it was difficult to try and put this budget together,” Mayor Paul Davis said of the progress made despite the pandemic. “You did a good job, and I think we have a budget that we can be proud of for next year.”
While the commissioners voted to approve the budget, Town Manager Roosevelt Henegan said final approval will come after residents that couldn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting are given a chance to comment on the spending plan and ask questions.
No new hires are included in the proposed budget. But, Commissioners Victor Womack and Paul McDowell mentioned that it was recommended during budget workshops that positions be added at the police and public works departments, and those recommendations weren’t reflected in the budget.
“I just want to know if we have any plans to take care of this problem,” Womack said. “We don’t want to wait until the last minute. We are rolling the dice as it is right now. We need to come up with some grant money or something to fund these slots.”
Henegan said those positions would be looked at in January.
During her report, Police Chief Ny’Shayla Nelson said more officers are needed.
“I need seven officers to get us to minimum staffing, but my objective by the end of (fiscal year) 2021 is to have us at 20 officers, which will give us a three-man rotation on each shift day and night,” Nelson said.
The commissioners also approved the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport budget presented by JoAnn Gentry, airport executive director. The $1,617,700 spending plan presented was a $93,000 increase from last fiscal year.
Gentry also updated the commissioners on airport projects.
“We were on schedule to do a new fuel farm at the airport in 2020, but with the state budget not being approved, this has been put on hold,” she said.
An airport layout plan is in the works and will take 12 to 18 months to complete, Gentry said. A 4,000-foot runway extension is planned and will be paid for with money from the N.C. Department of Transportation. The $8 million project will be completed in three to five years.
A new terminal building is being designed with the goal of replacing the terminal built in 1976, Gentry said. The designs will be sent to the N.C. Division of Aviation for approval and construction will be 100% state funded.
“It’s time to update, and this is from the state,” Gentry said.
Henegan told the commissioners he received a letter from the National Flood Insurance Program stating the town was able to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.
“This means the citizens of Maxton are entitled to all the benefits of the National Flood Insurance Program, including the purchase of flood insurance,” he said.
In other action, the town’s Fourth of July fireworks show scheduled for July 3 was canceled, but a fireworks show for Dec. 31 was approved by the Board of Commissioners.
With the uncertainty around Independence Day festivities caused by COVID-19, East Coast Pyrotechnics laid out options for the town as the holiday nears and permits for fireworks shows were on hold. The town had already put down a $2,000 deposit for the show, with another $2,000 due after the show. Cancellation of the contract would cost the town $1,600 of the deposit, and postponing any fireworks shows until 2021 would result in a fee of 15% of the $4,000 contract. Postponing the contract to another date this year would be free of charge.
Commissioner Toni Bethea made the motion to reschedule the July 4th show to New Year’s Eve. The motion was unanimously approved.
The commissioners amended action from the May 19 meeting when it voted to appoint former Maxton Mayor Emmett Morton to the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission. The motion was for Morton to finish out the last year of a three-year term vacated by Gary Gallman. The amended action was for Morton to serve for three years on the commission.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.
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