ELLERBE — The Town Commission will meet at 2 p.m. June 25, to hear what residents have to say about trimming the fiscal 2019 budget — especially costs for managing water, town maintenance and cemetery improvements.
“We’ll amend and OK the new budget” then, pending what residents have to say, Mayor Lee Berry said Monday night, after the council set the special meeting.
Also at its regular monthly meeting Monday, commissioners voted to renew the town’s law-enforcement contract with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office despite the crimp the contract puts in the budget. Berry has estimated that the current contract costs the town $485 per day.
Ellerbe simply couldn’t provide service on par with what two deputies dedicated to the town do, Berry told council members. But, he said, he’s still seeking a cap on how much payments can rise when the contract comes up for renewal every three years.
“We appreciate all (Sheriff James Clemmons) does for us,” Berry told commissioners. “We’re just trying to get a cap on what we’re going to pay down the road.” The ever-elevating payments “are killing us,” Berry told commissioners in May.
At that May meeting, Berry also proposed at least two and maybe three workshops before the budget must be passed June 30. One workshop took place late last month. Two more are scheduled for 2 p.m. June 7 and 21 — before the residents’ review June 25.
The water and water-treatment departments are, by law, self-sustaining and not financed by the general fund, so any cost saving would have to come from within those departments themselves and not borrowed from other departments.
But water woes also plague the town’s maintenance workers, who have long been trying to find out where rainwater invades the town’s sewer system, costing huge amounts to purify in Rockingham, even though no residents have used it and flushed it away.
As for the cemetery … Earlier this year, the commission changed the way fees are assessed, charging out-of-towners more for plots, for example. But the need to replant and refurbish the grounds has eaten up a good deal of money lately — for improvements the city not only wants to make but that residents have demanded.
The town also wants to survey the cemetery to make sure it has a correct accounting of plots, as well as who is buried where — and who should be buried where — but doesn’t have the money to do that approximately $10,000 job at the moment. Discussion on the measure has been put off until the new budget is in hand and the town’s financial picture, more firm.
During its first budget workshop, Berry charged town maintenance supervisor Wendell Robinson with laying out exact expenses for several town services, so commissioners might find ways to pare the budget.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]