Catawba calls budget meeting

Catawba Town Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss budget problems. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. with a closed session to discuss personnel matters, and then Council members will move into open session to discuss issues with the town’s budget.

“We’re going to have to make some changes in the budget,” said Catawba Mayor Vance Readling.

Readling declined further comment about the changes, adding the town did “not budget conservatively enough” for the current fiscal year. Council will discuss applicants for the town’s vacant town manager position.

“It’ll primarily be used to talk about the hiring process,” Readling said.

Eric Davis is serving as interim town manager until the position is filled. Former Town Manager Jonathan Kanipe left the position July 1 for a job in Columbus. Davis will work part time for Catawba until a permanent manager is hired. He will not return to Catawba Town Hall until Tuesday and was unavailable for comment about budget issues. According to the North Carolina Open Meetings Law, personnel discussions, including conditions of initial employment, are allowed in closed session. Any action taken to hire an employee, however, must be done in open session.

“I don’t know how long executive session will last, but (open session) will be afterward,” Readling said.

According to Kanipe’s budget message for fiscal year 2010-11, the town is in “relatively good financial condition.”

“The budget presented to you is conservative,” Kanipe said in his May budget proposal to council members. “It is incumbent on the staff to ensure needs are being met and that money is not being wasted but being used as wisely as possible.”

Council passed Kanipe’s proposed budget at its regularly scheduled June 7 meeting without any changes. The budget is about $29,000, or about 3 percent, less than the previous fiscal year. The town maintained its property tax rate of 48 cents per $100 valuation, but did not cut services to citizens. The budget also included a 2 percent cost of living increase for full-time employees and participation in a multi-jurisdictional business park at an initial cost of $15,000.

“The staff feels the expenditures and revenues listed above will accomplish the goals and vision set by the Town Council for Catawba,” Kanipe said in his budget message. “Again, these are conservative projections of revenues, but the expenditure projections are as accurate as possible when compared to the (previous) spending year. The budget as presented will maintain service levels to the citizens of Catawba while, once again, decreasing total spending.”

Council amended the current budget at its meeting Monday. Council members voted to move about $100,000 from capital project funds in the town’s budget to the general fund.

“It’s basically moving funds from one pocket to another,” Davis said at the Council’s Monday meeting.

He said the money remained in the fund after the project was completed and should be transferred out. The public is invited to attend the meeting Tuesday.