5/13/2020 7:41:00 AM City Council Discusses Budget
CITY OF LINCOLNTON FUND BALANCE HISTORY
Both the City of Lincolnton and Lincoln County have maintained fund balances in excess of what's required. Both will use part of their Fund Balance for fiscal 2020-2021 to avoid any tax increase while maintaining services.
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
The most-seen word in the City of Lincolnton budget that was discussed at last Thursday's (May 7th) City Council meeting was 'freeze.' City Manager Steve Zickefoose, in preparing the budget proposal, used that word often beside individual items. Zickefoose says that means the particular item or project is still a 'go' but only if funds are available. Otherwise, the projects might have to be delayed another year.
Among the items listed with the word 'freeze' was a new roof for the City's Water Plant. Multiple other capital expenditures were also listed as frozen.
City employees won't be receiving a raise at the beginning of the fiscal year in July, but they may get one in January, similar to the plan talked about recently by the County. Like the County, the City will update a Payroll Study.
While electric and water & sewer rates won't increase in July, one Council member expressed concern that the City might have to raise rates later in the fiscal year. The state has decreed that renters can't be evicted for not paying their monthly rent and their utilities cannot be shut off during the COVID-19 emergency.
For public housing that means no evictions until July 24th at the earliest. Water, gas, and electric service can't be shut off during the crisis.
For some landlords, that edict by Governor Roy Cooper may mean trouble ahead. "They're still going to have to pay that rent eventually," said one landlord. "I am still going to have to pay my mortgage payments on the house. I'm still going to have to pay my insurance for the house. I'm still going to have to pay my taxes on the house."
The problem is that many of those who are not paying their rent or utility bills right now have difficulty meeting all their needs on a regular basis. When the grace period ends, they'll be faced with making monthly payments on any outstanding bills for rent, water & sewer, and electricity--"and some," the Council member told us, "will have trouble doing that, especially if the economy is still in trouble, and it likely will be." That could mean that the City will have to raise rates later to make up for lost revenues.
Like the County, the City discussion was just that--no final action was taken. Public hearings on both the City and County budgets will be held in June. Budgets must be finalized by July 1.
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