The town Board of Commissioners laid off two full-time police officers this week as a step toward bringing Maxton’s current financial problems under control.
“We have to do what we have to do,” Mayor Sallie McLean said. “We are only doing what most towns in our position would do.”
The board met in closed session Thursday for almost two and a half hours before voting 3 to 1 to dismiss the two police officers. Commissioners Cynthia Johnson, Victor Womack and Tim McMillan voted in favor, and Commissioner James McDougald voted against the action. Commissioner Mark McEachin was not present.
At the recommendation of Womack, the commissioners agreed that if the need arises for additional police officers, part-time officers can be hired.
McLean said that the board’s action reduces the town’s police force from 11 to nine. She said that the action is just the first step the town is taking to regain financial stability.
“We have to look at everything,” the mayor said. “We’ve got to survive.”
Sharon Edmundson, the director of the fiscal management section of the state’s Local Government Commission, met last month with town officials and told them the town could run out of cash late in the year. She suggested several things for the commissioners to look at for improving the town’s financial stability, including reducing the number of town employees; ways to boost the rate of tax collections; elimination of some services; pursuit of grants; and internal financial controls.
Edmundson also told the commissioners that the Local Government Commission can assist the town as it puts together its 2012-13 fiscal budget that becomes effective July 1.
The town’s annual audit, presented in January by John Masters of the accounting firm of S. Preston Douglas, showed Maxton with a low cash balance, as well as a general fund balance of only $90,000, down from $673,000 two years ago. The sour financial report was echoed by former interim Town Manager Hugh Montgomery, who said in February that if something is not done to boost the town’s cash flow by June, the town might not even be able to pay its employees.
During her presentation to the board last month, Edmundson told the commissioners they are going to have to prioritize what programs and services they wish to provide for the community.
“The role of the board is to determine what your priorities are,” she said. “You have to determine how to make things better for the community.”