LUMBERTON — The Lumberton City Council on Monday adopted an $89.2 million budget that keeps taxes and fees the same and does not include a pay increase for employees.
“Everyone that sits up here would like to do something for our employees,” Mayor Raymond Pennington said.
According to City Manager Wayne Horne, the council approved a 3 percent cost of living increase for the budget that is currently in effect.
“We’ve had a 5 percent increase in the past three years,” Horne said. “We’ve had a big insurance increase and worker’s comp increase this year.”
Horne said the budget would provide for a higher deductible — from $1,500 to $3,000 — to offset a 19 percent hike in health care costs. In Horne’s budget message, he said that the increase would cost the city $311,655 for current employees and $128,345 for retired employees. The cost of worker’s comp is expected to increase $336,740.
Horne said the city is also facing a loss of $300,000 a year in revenue from fees related to sweepstakes parlors. The poor economy is also hurting.
“Sales tax is our second largest revenue,” he said. “We’ve faced a loss of almost $600,000 in sales tax because of the recession … .”
The tax rate will remain at 63 cents for every $100 of property.
During a hearing on the budget, Blake Tyner, executive director of the Robeson County Museum, asked the council to consider increasing funding for the museum, and Columbus Howard Jr. asked for a cost-of-living increase for city employees.
In other action, the council approved the use of $7,673 from the Lumberton Police Department’s contingency fund to pay for miscellaneous items such as light fixtures and kitchen sinks that will be installed in a new 16,545-square-foot police station at 1305 Godwin Ave.
Brandon Love, the city’s Planning director, said that the $3 million project should be completed by July 1.
“We should be moving in furniture right around then,” Love said.
The department currently operates out of a building at 407 N. Sycamore St.
“We’ve never had a new building before,” Police Chief Mike McNeill said. “We’ve always had kind of like hand-me-downs so I know a lot of the other police officers are excited about it too.”
McNeill said that the new building will be able to serve the community better.
“It will be a state-of-the-art building and really user-friendly,” he said.
During a public hearing, the council heard from Love, who recommended that it approve a conditional-use permit that Nathaniel Stubbs needs to operate a youth center at 3150 Martin Luther King Drive.
Councilman John Cantey raised his concerns, saying he was worried the center would become a drawing card for people with criminal backgrounds. Councilman Robert Jones made the motion to approve the permit, but it died for a lack of a second.
During the public comments session, the council heard from Robert Britt and Dencie Lambdin about Rediscover Downtown Lumberton, a new group that is working to revitalize the downtown area. The group donated planters valued at $3,000 to the city for placement downtown.
In other action, the council:
— Heard from Helen Sharpe, who gave an update on the Robeson County History Museum
— Approved a request by Hayward McCormick to rezone property at 4015 W. Fifth St. from Heavy Manufacturing to Agricultural so he can sell produce from his home.
— Approved incentives for Project Flow, an effort to recruit a company that would invest $1 million and create 40 jobs with an average wage of $15 an hour with benefits.
— Authorized Stepp Construction, of Lenoir, to install storm water drainage on 11th and 12th streets as part of the Tanglewood Sewer Rehabilitation project at a cost of $30,200.
— Approved a municipal agreement that would relocate utilities and acquire the right-of-way for Carthage Road and Water Street Intersection improvement project at a cost of $175,000.