MAXTON — A $1.37 million budget approved by town commissioners Tuesday holds the property tax rate steady but increases what residents will pay for water and electricity.
Maxton’s fiscal 2012-13 budget, which becomes effective July 1, is about $310,000 less than the current year’s spending plan. It calls for the tax rate to stand at 80 cents for each $100 of property and increases water rates by 3 percent. Town residents will also see a 3 percent the increase in their utility bills beginning in August.
Myra Tyndall, Maxton’s former financial director and current financial consultant, said that the extra 3 percent water fee should boost the town’s utilities collection by about $1,200 a month.
This year, the town also hopes to save about $75,000 by eliminating a contract with Waste Management for trash pickup and providing the service itself. Five part-time employees will be hired to provide this service, according to Angela Pitchford, the town’s interim manager.
Starting in the new fiscal year, Maxton residents will also be paying a fire tax of 10 cents for every $100 of property value. The new tax will pay the Queheel Volunteer Fire Department for fire protection within Maxton town limits.
The town and Queheel department have been negotiating for more than a year to come up with what the town should pay for fire protection The fire department originally wanted double the $25,000 a year the town has been paying for fire protection services. An agreement was finally reached for $45,000, according to town officials.
Mayor Sallie McLean said after the meeting that the town did not have a lot of options when it came to drafting the upcoming budget.
“Cuts had to made. We didn’t have a lot of choices in some areas,” McLean said. “There were some things we didn’t want to do, like go up on water rates, but we had to do it.”
Maxton’s financial woes were revealed in an audit earlier this year that showed a significant drop in the town’s General Fund between July 2010 and June 2011. It also showed that the town had overspent during the last fiscal year by more than $230,000.
Sharon Edmundson, director of the state Local Government Commission’s fiscal management section, told town commissioners at a meeting in March that the General Fund could run out by the end of summer if spending wasn’t brought under control. She advised the board to use several methods to increase revenue, including the collection of delinquent taxes, sale of unused assets, and pursuit of grants.
Edmundson at the March meeting also told the commissioners and town administrators that her office would work with the town as it drafted its 2012-13 fiscal budget. Pitchford said that the Local Government Commission is regularly updated on steps the town is taking to improve its financial condition.
In other business, the commissioners:
— Adopted a resolution supporting the county’s hazard mitigation plan.
— Appointed Commissioner Vincent Womack to serve on the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission.
— Passed a resolution supporting a study for a deep-water port in Brunswick County.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.