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RED SPRINGS — Commissioners here took their first look at the proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget during their regular business meeting on Tuesday.

The spending plan, including the General Fund, totals $10,564,202, which is $474,765 more than the previous fiscal year. Powell Bill, or street maintenance, funding totals $98,003; Water and Sewer Fund, $1,441,504; and Electric Fund, $705,202, according to Town Manager David Ashburn.

“We are projecting spending $75,482 less in expenses this year than last year,” Ashburn said.

Placing money in reserve funds is part of the plan to make that happen, he said.

The proposed budget was in the town clerk’s office for public review and would be published online after the meeting, Ashburn said. The public hearing for the budget is scheduled for June 1.

“This is the way it really marches out moneywise, but now there’s a new twist, sorry to say,” Ashburn said.

The Local Government Commission requested budgets from the previous two years and budget amendments for the current fiscal year by May 15, he said. The town has turned paperwork in, but had to adjust figures in the proposed budget to meet spending guidelines that mandate no more than 5% of each fund can be held as contingency funds.

The town received a letter from the LGC asking why in the previous fiscal year it had less than the required 110% in reserves for the water/sewer debit ratio, Ashburn said. The town must maintain a 10% cash reserve because it took out a loan to buy smart water meters for use in town. The town did not meet the 10% reserve requirement according to the LGC.

Commissioners signed a letter to be sent to the LGC stating factors that contributed to the lack of reserves.

“Our revenues for fiscal year 2020 were down approximately 20% due to the governor’s order to suspend utility payments for four months,” Ashburn read from the commissioner’s written response to the LGC.

The letter also mentions the town writing off in 2020 $60,000 in obsolete water/sewer debt, which occurred over a number of years.

Ashburn said the town currently has 280% in its water/sewer debt ratio, more than twice the LGC’s requirement.

Also on Tuesday, the commissioners approved a contract worth about $160,000 with Tyler Technologies for hardware and software upgrades to the town’s computer system, and for one year of service.

Ashburn said the new software would allow the town to better alert residents with robo calls.

Commissioners Neal Lea’Kes and Duron Burney spoke about cardboard boxes, trash and paper piling up along town roadsides.

“I don’t know what we gotta do, but we gotta do something,” Burney said.

Burney also said some contractors are leaving behind materials the town is forces to dispose of, even though it is not the town’s responsibility.

“It just can’t continue to be like this,” he said.

Mayor Ed Henderson said he has seen contractors dumping materials in wooded areas, and asked Red Springs Chief of Police Brent Adkins to step up patrols and litter enforcement. The mayor said the town’s ordinances on litter should be reviewed and consequences for violations be made stricter.

“I think that if we give them (the police department and code enforcer) a couple of tools to work with, this will get better,” Henderson said.

Ashburn said the town is encouraging businesses and people to “Adopt a Spot” to keep clean and to work with the town to beautify those areas. The program will be mentioned in monthly newsletters sent out with utility bills.

Burney asked the town manager to speak with code enforcement about the problems and about “junk cars” that are in yards inside town. A code enforcement officer was present at the meeting.

Burney also asked about alerting residents to power outages, which were in progress Tuesday evening. Town electric crews were working to restore power outages during the meeting. Ashburn said robo calls concerning outages would be made to affected residents after the meeting.

Chief Adkins asked for prayers for two officers involved in a Sunday incident in which a man rammed his vehicle into three police cars, totaling all three of them. The officers were not hurt, and the suspect was arrested.

“It could’ve been worse,” he said. “They’re both OK.”

He said damages were being reported to the insurance company.

Commissioners also received their iPads at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. The town had been discussing getting iPads for the commissioners for months.

Commissioner Elma Patterson spoke of upcoming community events.

St. James AME Zion Church on Brown Street is hosting a COVID-19 vaccine and testing event on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., she said.

Food and clothing will be distributed May 22 at the Farmer’s Market. The distribution will be hosted by Combined Unified Community Services.

Patterson also said the town and Red Springs Arts Council are formulating plans for a July 4 celebration that will take place at 4 p.m.

Tuesday’s meeting was recessed until 6 p.m. May 11 when a budget workshop will take place.

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