2018-11-08 / Front Page

County’s budget woes continue as commissioners debate needs

By KAY TOTO staff writer

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners held a workshop meeting Thursday, November 1, to discuss a variety of subjects. No action was taken but issues will be taken to a vote at the next regular meeting scheduled for Thursday (tonight), November 8, beginning at 6 p.m.

Budget woes continue to plague Lincoln County. Further dialogue, held over from last month, contin­ued over the potential leasing of computers, cloud storage, and anti- virus software, including Micro­soft Office 365. Director of Tech­nology and Media Services Austin Dockery, was there once again to speak about the need to update the county computer system.

The number of computers deemed in need of replacing now totals 67 desktop units, and four laptops. The five-year lease would also include replacement of any unit that fails. Yearly costs would be approximately $33,542. Com­mission Chairman Walker Norman also mentioned that his office com­puter is 12 years old. The laptops would be for vital positions only, such as the Finance Director, for example. Cloud storage would al­low preservation of records and easy access.

In the resulting conversation of how to provide for this unbudgeted expense, Commissioner Lamar Wade spoke. “I think one thing we need to be talking about right now is raising revenue and cutting ex­penses. One of the things we talked about was contracting out some of the different parts of the govern­ment, the jail, and contracting out communications. I know raising revenue is hard, but people are tired of raising taxes,” he remarked.

The Lincoln County Office of Emergency Services (OES) Direc­tor Casey Broom remarked that the recent increase in ambulance services fees may help, as it was a non-budgeted revenue, prompting Norman to say that they have been trying to raise money in different areas. “Last year we raised the fees for planning and zoning, and we also raised the garbage fees. Water costs go up yearly. I don’t know any other fees that we can possibly raise,” said Norman.

“The digest has gone down eight of the last ten years, and the change in the way tax is collected on car tags is just some of the reasons we are where we are. There is a timber tax amendment that will probably be voted in that will affect our rev­enue as well,” Norman continued.

Wade asked that, since the county is a tourist recreation community, was there a way to tax the tourists coming into the county. Norman answered that by state law, sales tax cannot be raised, and neither can the hotel-motel tax. “I really don’t know where else we could generate revenue,” he said.

Commissioner Larry Collins spoke as well. “I’d just like to say that I’ve talked to the chairman at least twice, and if I’m re-elected, I'm going to push for us to get someone from the state or some­where, so that we can have a meet­ing and discuss all these issues as to what we need to do going for­ward, so that we can quit living on a year by year basis. As far as the computers, I'd like to say forget it, but I know I can't. The public needs access to the records when they need them, and we need to have these records on a system that works,” Collins finished.

The County Commission also discussed entering into a lease agreement with the Development Authority of Lincoln County for the historic Blanchard-Lamar House. John Stone, director of the Lincoln County Development Authority, was also present to dis­cuss the terms. The agreed-upon 10-year lease is the first such of its kind for this property.

According to the terms of the lease, the property is to be used to promote the expansion of new and current businesses in Lincoln County. The Development Author­ity has agreed to be responsible for the utilities, equipment, and main­tenance of the property in exchange for said use. Any sub-letting would have to be agreed upon by both parties.

There was some brief discus­sion about the possible court date of the lawsuit between the City of Lincolnton and the county. County Attorney Ben Jackson voiced an opinion that the court date could be later this month.

Three businesses, at the time of this writing, have applied for and met the requirements for their 2019 Alcohol Beverage License. Several more are pending, and may be included for review by the No­vember meeting.

In other business, the board dis­cussed the intention to submit an application to participate in the Community Home Investment Pro­gram (CHIP.} “If successful, we’ll have a grant of up to $300,000 and it will be for home improvements,” Planning and Zoning Director Roby Seymour said. The funds through CHIP are used to assist low to mod­erate income homeowners with the rehabilitation or reconstruction of their owner-occupied homes. Seymour also noted that they also hire local firms where possible.

Seymour also spoke on a rezon­ing request. The property, located at Bethany Church Road and High­way 79, had already been rezoned as a C-2 property. The owners are now wanting to apply for a permit to renovate the old barn on the property and turn it into a wedding venue. For this type of location, it is considered a "special request" C-2 and a permit must be applied for as well.

The potential purchase of a roll- in two-body refrigerator for use by the coroner for $6,577 is also not a budgeted item. In the past, the county’s needs were met by Beggs Funeral Home. The funeral home has notified the county that its unit no longer works and an alternative source needs to be found.

Workshops are frequently re­ported upon in order to give citi­zens more detail and better under­standing into the decisions of their commissioners. Workshops allow commissioners to discuss the de­tails of the upcoming agenda. Do­ing this allows them to have time to reflect on the best decision for their constituents when they are asked to vote at the monthly Lin­coln County Commissioners meet­ings.

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