Sales tax change to benefit Laurinburg, Scotland

LAURINBURG — The Laurinburg City Council got a cursory look at the city’s overall general fund projections for the upcoming fiscal year during a work session on Tuesday.

According to City Manager Charles Nichols, who presented preliminary numbers for the 2017 fiscal year, the city’s general fund is slated to bring in $7.4 million in revenue and spend $8 million.

Nichols said that the $8 million figure includes $622,000 in capital projects — including $200,000 each under sewer and parking line items and $125,000 to equip a new fire truck —that may not be achievable in the next fiscal year.

“Basically what that shows you is our budget, as a total of salary and operations, has decreased from expenditures other than these capital projects,” Nichols said. “Capital projects are solely what has taken any department’s budget over what it was last year, so if these are removed, every department’s budget is under the total amount last year.”

A change in local distribution of state sales taxes slated to take effect in July — and expected to be favorable to Laurinburg and Scotland County — has not been factored in to the city’s revenue projections.

“That’s something we just don’t have a good feeling about right now,” Nichols said. “There have been no solid numbers on what that increase is going to be, other than it is going to be an increase.”

In other business, council discussed its approach to determining the feasibility of building an indoor recreation center after Mayor Mathew Block reiterated his standing suggestion that the city establish an exploratory recreation committee. In his campaign for election last year, Block prioritized a community center over a new municipal building.

“This is not about me; I’m just bringing up that the citizens are asking the city to look into improving a rec center for youth,” Block said. “That’s what the citizens are asking.”

Next week, council will take a vote for appointing Block to the Scotland County Parks and Recreation advisory board in the place of council member Drew Williamson as the first step toward creating a partnership.

“You say the county would just simply dismiss it; maybe not if the city’s saying we think it’s a good idea too,” said Williamson. “I see that we’re 99th in the state in health outcomes and I have to believe that there are grant monies out there for something like this, and we’ve got a new director coming in for the county. This may be the right time to bring it up.”

Council member J.D. Willis said that while the city is not opposed to the idea of a community center, there is currently no gauge of the endeavor’s feasibility.

“We are not saying no to the citizens and their request for a recreation center,” he said. ” We just want to know what we’re saying yes to.”

Council is also expected to vote on replacing a downtown awning destroyed in recent heavy rain and wind at a cost of $3,000 as requested by the Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Corporation. The city will also explore adopting a policy, with the help of the N.C. Main Street Center, to codify how it responds to such requests.

“They’re going to give us a policy that we can put in place,” said Nichols. They request that yes, we should have some type of facade improvements grant, but the owners should pay 50 percent up to X amount.”

Council also discussed meeting with the chairs of the city’s crime and drug committee and beautification committee to discuss the effectiveness of those groups in light of their members’ poor attendance. Both committees regularly fail to command a quorum at their regular meetings.

For the regular city council agenda on April 19, Creech and Associates architecture firm and Edifice Inc. construction firm working on plans for a new municipal building are scheduled to present. The city council will also consider a request to rezone property on Johns Road from Residential-20 to General Business.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.

Mary Katherine Murphy

[email protected]

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