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Board discusses budget priorities


Spring Lake Aldermen discussed budget priorities ahead of budget sessions at the board's regularly scheduled meeting Monday.

Here are the highlights from the session:

Budget priorities

What happened: Each board member discussed budget priorities for the year. Budget priorities for the board included replacing the dias (the raised platform where the board sits), which has splitting wood under the table, and the carpet, which has wear and tear from 20-plus years of service. The board also placed a large emphasis on pay raises for staff, travel to training sessions and community outreach events such as First Friday on Main.

Alderman Raul Palacios said that, as the ex-officio board member on the Spring Lake Appearance and Sustainability Committee, the town should have a budget for public art, including a sculpture piece and two more murals

Mayor Pro Tem Sona Cooper’s wish list included a capital improvement plan, hiring a full-time inspector and a planner, and purchasing Town of Spring Lake jackets or shirts so the board and staff can look more uniform when attending events and out-of-town training.

The entire board agreed that they wanted to develop water and sewer rates that were easy for the town residents to understand. 

“We pay those same water bills,” Mayor Kia Anthony said. “We see those same fluctuations. We hear and share your complaints, which is why we want to get them fixed.” 

Alderman Marvin Lackman asked that the town consider replacing the street sweeper and adding both a leaf collector and possibly a wood chipper. He cited Steve Wing’s presentation earlier this month on the amount of organic waste that the town produces. Wing is the town’s interim public works supervisor.

Interim Town Manager Jason Williams said the town was researching whether it would be more prudent to purchase or short-term lease the street sweeper during the heavier seasons, which include fall and right after Christmas.

Why it matters: The N.C. Local Government Commission took financial control of the town in October 2021 amid concerns about budget deficits, fiscal disarray and possible missing money. Contracted financial staffers have spent more than two years researching and committing to daily reconciliations of finances. Town staff have been praised for their work to help rebuild finances. 

Anthony said going into this budget session, the town’s finances were better than the past two years when the general fund was being built back from near depletion.

“We are moving into this as cautiously as possible, being very mindful of recurring expenses versus one-time expenses,” Anthony said. “We are trying to make sure we are prioritizing as effectively as possible so that we can get as much done responsibly as we can.”

Anthony said that the general fund had been restored since she and the current board took office. In 2021, the general fund was at $1.7 million; it’s now $12.8 million, according to Anthony. 

What’s next: Williams said that he would have a budget session calendar on Friday and that the budget sessions would start for the public during the first full week of March. Once the budget is put together with public input and town research, it will be presented to the LGC for approval.

Town updates

What happened: Board members provided several updates. The Spring Lake Recreation Center is currently being used as an early voting site. The Spring Lake Matters Cleanup will take place this Saturday, and the first phase of the Spring Lake Veterans Park is expected to begin soon.

Other updates included: 

  • The first phase of the Spring Lake Veterans Park will include putting grass down, fixing the lighting and installing sprinklers, according to Williams. Williams said the work would begin once contractors were hired, which he believed would be soon.
  • The in-person early voting period runs through Saturday, and voters can cast ballots at the Spring Lake Recreation Center until 3 p.m. Cooper said the early turnout numbers for the primary have been low so far, so she encouraged residents to vote early so they could maintain the site in Spring Lake. Election Day is March 5.
  • The Spring Lake Appearance and Sustainability Committee is working on new pieces to add to the Spring Lake Art Trail, including a sculpture for the roundabout on Main Street and another mural.
  • The next Spring Lake Matters cleanup will start at 8 a.m. Saturday in Southwinds Plaza, while the next Spring Lake Appearance Commission cleanup will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 20, beginning at the Spring Lake Recreation Center. 
  • The next Lunch with the Mayor will take place at noon on Tuesday at Ruby Tuesday in Spring Lake.
  • The Spring Lake Military and Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee will be hosting a Military Banner program. The cost is $188 to purchase a banner and will include one photo. Banners will be on display starting on Memorial Day through Veterans Day. The application and order deadline is May 3. 

The board went into closed session at 7 p.m., citing N.C. general statutes for attorney-client privilege and personnel. They returned after 50 minutes and announced no action was taken.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, March 11, in the Grady Howard conference room at the Spring Lake Town Hall. 

Jami McLaughlin can be reached at jmclaughlin@cityviewnc.com or at 910-391-4870.

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Spring Lake Board of Aldermen, Budget priorities, Spring Lake Appearance and Sustainability Committee, Public art budget, Capital improvement plan, Water and sewer rates, Financial control, General fund restoration, Town updates, Spring Lake Recreation Center, Early voting, Spring Lake Veterans Park, Spring Lake Art Trail, Community cleanup events, Lunch with the Mayor, Military Banner program, Closed session, Next scheduled meeting