City to hold public hearing on budget plan

By Mike Gellatly -

LUMBERTON — The city’s proposed fiscal year 2017-18 budget will be open for public comment on Monday.

The public hearing will be part of the City Council meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. in Lumberton City Hall.

City leaders say the budget offers residents an overall financial break because a planned decrease in electric bills will offset a rise in water and sewer rates. The city’s tax rate remains unchanged at 65 cents per $100 of property value under a proposal that gives city employees a 2 percent cost-of-living increase.

Electrical rates are coming down because of a reduction in wholesale power costs and demand charges resulting from a cut in the cost of natural gas, City Manager Wayne Horne told council members recently. The 3.5 percent reduction means a customer who typically pays $100 a month for electricity will now pay $96.50, if the change is approved as is. The change in power bills would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

The proposed budget contains a 4.6 percent increase in water and sewer rates that would go into effect July 1. The rate increase will bring in about an additional $400,000 a year, which is needed to recoup losses from Hurricane Matthew.

The revenue increase will cover the cost of chemicals, sludge disposal and replacing contents lost to floodwaters, Horne said.

The city currently has a low water and sewer fund balance because of the cost to repair the water plant, which was flooded by Hurricane Matthew. Much of those expenses will be recouped from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that will not include the contents of buildings damaged by floodwaters.

In other business:

— The five-year master plan for downtown Lumberton, created by Charlotte-based planning firm Benchmark, will be on the agenda for approval.

— An ordinance requiring people who drive golf carts to be insured and get a permit from the city will be discussed.

— The council will present a Pride in Lumberton award to W.C. Washington, owner of Washington’s Men Store. The fashion store recently celebrated 45 years in business.

By Mike Gellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

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