Shallotte prepares to reduce spending in strained economy

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

SHALLOTTE—Town aldermen are attempting to arm this year’s budget against the recession by making it easier to reduce spending.

At the recommendation of the N.C. League of Municipalities, the town has moved 8 percent of its budget, nearly $550,000, to a reserve fund in case of a revenue shortfall.

According to a memo from the league’s Web site, “The League advises municipal officials to consider reducing expenditures for the current fiscal year in the expectation of lower consumption-based revenues” to keep up with the economic downturn.

To do so, town administrator Paul Sabiston asked each department head to consider how they could cut their budgets by 4 or 8 percent, without reducing personnel or capital projects, unless they wanted to change those requests.

The fire department and the water and sewer department were able to reduce some capital requests, Sabiston said.

The fire department eliminated $160,000 for the planned Brierwood fire substation, which will be put off until next year, and the water/sewer department delayed “a handful of projects” valued at $285,000.

“We didn’t cut it out,” he explained. “We moved all those lines into an administrative reserve line. We’ve already made the move, so if we’re not spending the money, it will make it that much easier to do.”

If town revenue remains steady and no cuts are needed, the board of aldermen can decide to spend the originally budgeted amounts. Until then, the money cannot be touched.

At last week’s board meeting, aldermen voted unanimously to move the money to the reserve fund and praised the work of Sabiston and finance officer Mimi Gaither to prepare the town in case of an emergency.

Budget reductions are as follows:

•Governing body: $15,388.88

•Administration: $25,770.32

•Planning: $2,256

•Police: $27,804.86

•Fire: $160,000

•Streets: $30,411.20

•Water/sewer: $286,000

According to the league, state revenues are expected to be at least $400 million below the conservatively budgeted level based on current trends, although it’s difficult to predict the final outcome.