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Pembroke still working on city budget
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The nation’s economy is under stress and the effects are being felt far and wide, even in Pembroke where city council must adopt a fiscal year budget for 2009 before the end of the year.

The council has held a number of workshops and a public hearing to crunch budget numbers, but is doubtful that the budget will be adopted at the next scheduled meeting on Dec. 8, City Clerk Betty Hill said.

"It’s possible to hold a called meeting to adopt the budget if it’s not done at the next regular meeting because it has to be adopted by the end of the year," Hill said.

Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook directed the budget be returned to each department committee for further review toward additional cuts.

"We have to do what we can in the best interest of the city and its citizens," Cook said.

Cook went over each item line by line, and current budget figures have the city in an approximate $200,000 deficit at the end of next year, although the council hopes to eliminate the deficit with further cuts.

As of Nov. 20, proposed department budgets included expenses of:

General government $220,724

Municipal Court $53,777

Police Department $680,307

Female Prison Detail $ 63,122

Fire Department $123,519

Highways / Streets $651,564

Downtown Programs $49,584

Recreation $49,500

Among changes discussed at the public hearing to the departments are:

- No contribution toward family insurance coverage for newly hired employees;

- The city planner has accepted another job in a different state, leaving a position that will not be filled when he departs;

- The city will no longer spray for Mosquitoes, eliminating the need for a new sprayer and the expensive chemicals involved, but will instead use different, more economical methods of control, including chemical blocks along the canals and public education about the need to eliminate standing water and other traditional mosquito breeding grounds;

- Vehicle purchases have been switched over to leases, lowering immediate funding needs;

- No new streetlights will be put up. The streetlights currently cost approximately $54,000 in electricity per year to keep;

- The fire tanker known as the green machine will not get the paint job that was estimated at approximately $6,000;

- Council is researching better cell phone plans and other communication options; and,

- The Downtown Programs Coordinator will be moved over to City Hall, eliminating rental and cell phone expense.

- Entering into a 1-year contract with the Bryan County Sheriff's Department for law enforcement. The proposal has met with some resistance from residents concerned about its impact on public safety.

The changes discussed at the hearing, as well as additional departmental cuts will affect the over all figures, and the budget will be amended. The plan is to publish the new proposed budget in the local media once it has been revised, Hill said at Thursday night’s meeting.

Cook said Wednesday the date of the called meeting would depend on when the revised figures are received from council and that the amended budget will be made public prior to its adoption.

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