ELLERBE — Town commissioners and Mayor Lee Berry spent 90 minutes hunched over lists of town revenues and expenditures Tuesday, seeking balance.
“This is a lot to take in,” said Berry, who for the past six years has made out the town budget with Town Clerk Jane Smith, whose role it was Tuesday to explain 13 pages of figures.
Berry mentioned several things he would like to add to the budget: a 5 percent raise for the town’s eight employees, hiring of a parks and recreation director, some sort of reimbursement for employees who must use their own cellphones to conduct city business, and the hiring of a part-time bookkeeper to help manage the budget. The last, he said, was something governmental experts recommend.
Commissioner Elsie Freeman asked about new Christmas directions, as well as new flags to line the streets on holidays, and Commissioner Jeremy McKenzie wondered about sidewalk repairs. The city also is only halfway through replacing antiquated water meters at its 600 households.
Berry suggested that perhaps the town could cut its contract for a code-enforcement officer to twice a month instead of weekly, since the town has been looking better and “this town’s not so big.”
When the town signed a contract with N-Focus Planning & Design of Kannapolis, he said, its intent had been to cut back on the code-enforcement employee’s hours once the contract neared two years. It has been in effect nearly that long now.
But the biggest difficulty Ellerbe will face is increasing bills for law-enforcement coverage from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. Berry would like a cap on increases, and he would like to talk with County Manager Bryan Land.
“I’ve been trying to look at this as $485 a day … to protect Ellerbe,” he told commissioners. “That’s still a good price,” he said — one better than paying for an Ellerbe police department.
“We’re not operating in the red (because of the expense), but someday we will,” Berry said. “I’d like to sit down with the county manager and … find out where we’re going to be in five more years, in six more years.
“I think that’s a reasonable question.” Commissioners agreed.
Berry charged town maintenance supervisor Wendell Robinson to lay out exact expenses for several town services, including maintaining the cemetery and parks and recreation programs, so commissioners might find ways to pare the budget.
Smith told commissioners that the water and sewer budgets were strong. By law, water and sewer must pay for themselves and not draw on a city’s general fund. And even if they do superbly, they cannot contribute their profits to the general fund.
The commission will meet on the budget again at 2 p.m. June 7, three days after their regularly scheduled monthly meeting.
All commissioners were present Tuesday except for Archie Robinson.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]