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Council cuts $2.5M from budget

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A third assistant manager position, a new department and more have been removed from Rocky Mount's proposed fiscal year 2018-19 budget.

Still in place is a 2.5-cent property tax rate increase to pay down debt on the Rocky Mount Event Center.

The City Council voted Wednesday on a reduction of operating expenses by $1.25 million and capital expenditures by $1.26 million. In total with changes to utility budgets, the council reduced the proposed budget by $2.5 million, including a $65,000 error city staff found while combing through the spending plan.

The cuts will help the general fund remain robust, as was requested by the council two weeks ago.

The total deductions are $30,000 shy of the goal, but the council was satisfied.

"Close enough not just for government work, but any work," Rogers said.

The council had agreed the budget as proposed by City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney needed trimming.

Councilwoman Chris Miller, who abstained from voting to approve the cuts, said she wasn't happy with the process and didn't like the way Small-Toney had added items at the last minute.

In Small-Toney's list of cuts were the addition of a position dedicated to the city's new business hub and a handful of other additions. She also suggested a few deep cuts, including adjusting wholesale fuel accounts for $110,000 and eliminating Wi-Fi improvements for $60,000.

The council also agreed at the special workshop to provide funding for two initiatives. The city will give $15,000 to the HOPE Initiative, which helps people with substance abuse. The city will also dole out $75,000 for a housing developer for the Rocky Mount Edgecombe Community Development Corp. Safe from the chopping block is funding for roof repairs of the Judicial Center and the Rocky Mount Senior Center.

During Monday's budget session, the council determined that housing is important to Rocky Mount's future so Small-Toney rescinded a decrease in housing grant programs.

She increased funding for housing programs from $400,000 to $500,000 for fiscal year 2019-20.

“One of council’s main priorities has been to provide more safe, healthy and affordable housing to the citizens of Rocky Mount,” Small-Toney said when explaining why full funding was implemented again for the housing grant programs and for a housing developer.

Small-Toney said ensuring the necessary funding for a housing developer will help the city to meet its housing goals.

"Plus, considering the RMECDC’s investments in our community and the return on tax investment, we would come to a stand-still without their assistance,” Small-Toney said.

While some items were added and other areas increased in the proposed budget, Small-Toney assured the council the items are still in line with the required reductions.

“Council indicated that housing and a roof for the Senior Center, for example, were high priorities," Small-Toney said. "We increased funding for those initiatives and a few others, but we made up for this in other areas of the budget.”

A public hearing continued from earlier this month and the council's vote on the budget are set for Monday during the council's regularly scheduled meeting.

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