FAIRMONT — Town Manager Linda Vause presented the Board of Commissioners her proposed budget Tuesday, a document that calls for elimination of the equivalent of three full-time positions.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Vause said during the budget workshop. “I’ve never in my life had to do anything like this, and it’s tearing me up.”
Vause’s $1.2 million plan maintains the tax rate of 73 cents for every $100 of property, keeps fees the same, does not provide for a cost-of-living increase and does not include any capital projects. Vause suggested eliminating two full-time and eight part-time employees — equivalent to one full-time position — in the Communications and Tax departments to eliminate a projected deficit of $65,072.
It would be the sixth straight year in which town employees have gone without a pay hike, and Vause’s plan calls for an increase in their health insurance deductible from $500 to $2,500. The increase in the deductible would avoid a 19 percent increase in health insurance.
The proposed budget is based on a 91 percent tax-collection rate.
Vause said the town has a current fund balance of about $150,000, and downsizing would free up about $50,000 annually to go into the General Fund.
Vause recommended handing communications and tax collections over to the county, but added that the town would keep the communications supervisor to handle clerical duties for the Public Safety Department. She told the board that displaced town employees would be offered positions with the county if they qualify for the work.
“I have no fear of them being able to pass this exam, as the county has hired several of our trained communications employees in recent years,” Vause said.
Commissioner Wayland Lennon III said he would “hate to see (the employees) gone.”
“… I’ve talked to the dispatchers, and they are very helpful, but I would hope that they will get a position with the county,” Lennon said.
Vause said the town could lose about $180,000 in revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — about $60,000 from the loss of privilege license fees because of the shutting down of sweepstakes establishments, and up to $120,000 because of tax reform that might come from the General Assembly.
“If we had the gaming money, we would not have a hole this big in the budget,” Vause said.
She added that the planned shutdown of a minimum security prison in Lumberton could mean the loss of inmate labor she valued at $200,000 a year. The town has benefited from inmates working for the cost of $1 a day.
There is a prison in Tabor City, but Vause said “it would be a lot more traveling and a lot less work.”
In other action, the board awarded Frank Horne Construction of Fair Bluff a $773,694 bid for a sewer line rehabilitation project. The project will be paid for with the sale of water and sewer bonds.