City fears state could impact budget


First Posted: 5/30/2009

Now that theyve formulated a budget that seems agreeable to them and most citizens, Mount Airy officials are worried about another party involved: the state.
Given North Carolinas major budget crisis, city leaders are concerned that their spending package now in place for the next fiscal year could be undermined by state legislative actions by the time it is officially approved before July 1.
That was a major topic of concern when the board of commissioners and other municipal officials held a budget workshop at the end of this past week.
Leaders in Raleigh are scrambling for ways to offset a multibillion-dollar deficit, which localities such as Mount Airy fear could ultimately affect their fiscal-year budgets by reducing or eliminating state revenues theyre expecting. Allocations of sales tax and gasoline tax proceeds which the state might withhold are examples that have been cited as municipalities seek to balance their books.
Based on discussion at its budget workshop, the dilemma facing Mount Airy is deciding when final approval should be given to the city budget to ensure what is settled on wont be undone by any state decisions.
What if Raleigh does something stupid? City Manager Don Brookshire speculated during the discussion. Theyre in session, so the odds are high.
In its present form, Mount Airys proposed budget for 2009-10 contains no property tax increase and water and sewer rates are unchanged.
City officials wrestled with the idea of delaying a budget vote until the last possible moment June 30, one day before the spending plan goes into effect or taking action at a regularly scheduled meeting of the commissioners on June 18.
I think that waiting until June 30 is the prudent thing to do, said Commissioner Todd Harris.
That way, weve stretched it as far as we can to react to something that may be coming out of Raleigh, Brookshire agreed.
However, after further discussion revealed that at least one board member had a scheduling conflict on June 30, officials settled on the June 18 regular meeting date.
Unless something major happens, we could prepare to make a commitment at that point, said Mayor Jack Loftis.
If worst comes to worst regarding the state, Mount Airy could adopt an interim budget, which has been done in the past in reaction to decisions in Raleigh, officials said.
We can do budget amendments at any time during the year, added the mayor.
David Beal, another commissioner, referred to the irony of city officials having a workable budget now in hand with the specter of the N.C. General Assembly hovering above. It seems like to me were pretty well on target for what the board wants to do budgetwise, said Beal, who added that there appeared to be a consensus for adopting it immediately.
But that is not the kind of thing you want to do knowing that the gun is cocked down there (in Raleigh) and you dont know who is going to get shot.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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