07/20/10 — Town will consider staff cuts

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Town will consider staff cuts

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 20, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Town of Mount Olive is feeling the pinch of difficult economic times and will likely have to lay off some employees.

The Mount Olive Board of Commissioners voted Monday night following a closed session to authorize Town Manager Charles Brown and finance officer Arlene Talton to take steps to ensure the town will not face a budget shortfall later this year.

"They voted to authorize us to do whatever is necessary, and we need to do it now," Brown said.

The town manager said he is "absolutely positive" that a reduction in force is going to be necessary to make that happen, but no decisions have been made on which positions might be cut.

Town officials will likely make that decision over the next 10 days, Brown said. He did not yet have details on what other money-saving measures the town might pursue as it struggles to cut from the approved budget.

A $112,000 sales tax shortfall is "95 percent to blame" for the problem, although other unspecified issues might have added to the strain, Brown said.

The town anticipated a shortfall, but only recently received year-end figures revealing how much it would be. The state also withheld thousands of dollars from Mount Olive's beer and wine tax last year.

The board members also looked at ways to bring in additional revenue for the town. The board examined the possibility of adding a $15 vehicle registration fee to its policies but did not take any action on the idea. A $15 fee could generate an estimated additional $48,000 for the town.

Parks and Recreation Director Chris Bitzenhofer presented a use of town facilities reservation and rental policy for the board's review. When the town's facilities are not in use for town programs, groups and individuals may reserve or rent space for the use in accordance with the policy, once it is approved and adopted.

Proposed fees for the rentals vary by location and are set at an hourly rate. Renters would pay $30 per hour for general use of the Carver Cultural Center gymnasium, $20 per hour for Daughtry Field baseball/soft-ball with additional charges of $10 per hour for field lights and a $20 field preparation charge. It would cost $65 to rent the historic depot civic center once it is renovated, and also $65 per hour. When required, a police officer or parks and recreation staff member could be hired by the hour for a $20 fee. The picnic shelter at Westbrook Park would remain free to the public.

The town has needed a plan for renting facilities for quite some time, Brown said.

"Chris has done a really good job putting this together," he said.

The plan also includes guidelines for behavior and what activities may be held in town facilities when they are rented to the public. Mayor Pro Tempore Kenny Talton also suggested imposing a deposit fee to ensure the safety of the town property.