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Spring Lake’s proposed budget calls for end to furloughs

The proposed spending plan also calls for an increase in water and sewer rates but would keep the tax rate the same.


SPRING LAKE — Spring Lake’s proposed budget calls for an end to furloughs and increases in water and sewer rates.

The $13.3 million proposed budget would keep the property tax rate unchanged at 70 cents per $100 valuation.

The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen on May 31 got a first look at the proposed budget that will be adopted by the Local Government Commission in June.

The board got a look at the proposed budget during a specially called work session that lasted around 40 minutes. It covered the highlights of the proposed 2022-23 budget, including ending furloughs, increasing water rates and merging the recreation department with the Fayetteville-Cumberland  Parks & Recreation program.

The Board of Aldermen will not be approving the budget this year because the Local Government Commission has control of the town’s finances, according to interim Town Manager Joe Durham.

The Local Government Commission took over the town’s finances in October amid concerns over budget deficits, fiscal disarray and possible missing money.

“The LGC will actually be approving the budget, but the budget process does allow for feedback,” Durham said.

The board received the budget information by email about a half-hour before the budget work session. The proposed budget has a general fund budget of around $8 million and a proposed water rate increase of 14%. 

“We have to continue to spend within our means,’’ Durham said, “We don’t spend money that we don’t have and we are doing better, but we need to be concerned about the future and continue to be financially prudent.

“Financial stability is the long game. It is not a short game. It will be years before we can get out of the challenges that we have before us.”

Durham said it will be a better future for the town if the board and staff continue to be financially responsible and present a fiscally conservative budget.

Other highlights from the proposed budget include ending the furlough that was put in place as a cost-saving measure to help balance the 2022 operating budget. The proposed budget also calls for a fund balance increase of $250,000 and a 3% cost-of-living increase for employees.

The elimination of furloughs would mean a return to full salaries for current employees. The 5% furlough, which went into effect last July, reduced pay for all general fund employees and the Board of Aldermen. It also reduced staff, with the exception of police and fire, from a 40-hour workweek to a 38-hour work, closing Town Hall on Fridays to walk-in traffic.

The parks and recreation transfer to the Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation program was also discussed.

“The parks and recreation merger is still under review and evaluation,” Durham said as he listed the benefits to the transfer, including cost-savings, better amenities and better customer service for residents.

A proposed public hearing by the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners on the proposed merger is scheduled for June 20. Durham said they were trying to schedule a meeting with the city of Fayetteville to go over the transfer details.

The proposed budget also includes eliminating short-term disability options for employees, which Durham said would be a cost savings because not a lot of employees had signed up for it and they will still have the option to purchase on their own.  

Water rates would increase by 14% for commercial and residential users. This is the second time water rates have been raised since a water and sewer study was commissioned by MacConnell & Associates in 2020. Water is purchased from Fayetteville PWC and Harnett County. The study suggested raising water rates annually over the next 10 years to cover both inflation and the increasing cost of purchasing water.

“This is mostly due to the PWC increase. Those increases are necessary to keep the fund stable and prepare for infrastructure projects,” said David Erwin, accounting and financial management advisor for the N.C. Department of State Treasurer and the town finance director.  

Mayor Kia Anthony said the rate increase is mandatory. 

“These rates go up regularly and they will continue to rise incrementally,” Anthony said. 

Sewer rates will also be raised by 5%. 

Alderman Raul Palacios said the rate increases will affect residents more than other items in the budget this year.

 “At the past rate, the town could not afford to fix issues or counter repairs. This was a projected rate increase to allow the town to take of important needs with water and sewer issues,” Palacios said.

 Palacios also said before last year, the rates had not been increased since 2007.

 Future issues that were outlined by Durham included an eventual transition of the Local Government Commission back to the town of Spring Lake, the ongoing creation of financial policies, continuing to look for merger opportunities and spending within the town’s means.  

The hiring of key town positions — including a town manager, police chief, finance director and staff and an attorney — were also listed as priorities in this budget cycle. The police chief position is being advertised and will close in June.

A joint public hearing on the proposed budget with the Local Government Commission has been scheduled for June 13. The budget and the water/sewer rate study will be online at www.townofspringlake.com.  

Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView TODAY. She can be reached at jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Spring Lake, Board of Aldermen, budget, furloughs, Local Government Commission