City approvesrate increasefor water, sewer

LAURINBURG — After approving a 2015-2016 budget on Tuesday, the Laurinburg City Council also gave the green light to a 35 percent increase in city water and sewer rates.

According to City Manager Charles Nichols, the city has balanced its water and sewer budget using fund balance for several years, but did not have that option this time.

“We cut $1.68 million out of expenditures and that along with the increase was what was needed to balance the budget not using fund balance,” Nichols said. “We had to get it where revenues were matching expenditures.”

The increase will add an average of $12.75 to city residents’ monthly water bills. The city’s total water budget for the 2015-2016 year is $6,062,800 — down nearly $1.4 million.

Council also approved an increase in solid waste fees, which will mean an average increase of $2.50 a month.

“I’m sure no one wants to go up, but it’s almost a necessity,” said Mayor Tommy Parker.

The city’s general fund budget totals $7,664,445, up about $158,000 from the current year. The budget does not change the city’s current tax rate, but is balanced using $227,133 in fund balance.

Also on Tuesday, council approved a new land use plan, drafted with the use of a Community Transformation Project grant through the N.C. Department of Public Health.

“It’s just a general guide in terms of long-term growth and development for the next 20 years, and it should generally serve as a resource for the council, for the planning board, for staff for grant applications and a number of things,” said Wes MacLeod, of Holland Consulting Planners, who drafted the plan in collaboration with the city’s planning board.

Council also took under advisement a request from Hunter’s Ridge resident Paige Quick that the city consider implementing an ordinance permitting and regulating the use of golf carts on city roads where the speed limit is no more 35 miles per hour.

“My husband and I just recently purchased a golf cart and we were asking around if we were allowed to ride, and they were saying we can’t,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we did it the proper way before we went and broke the laws.”

In other business on Tuesday, council:

— Appointed Larry Everett to a three-year term on the city’s planning board, replacing Sallie Jones.

— Reappointed Parker to the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission.

— Authorized Parker to execute a contract for the city’s 2014-2015 financial audit with Gustaf C. Lundin and Co.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.