City Manager Montre Freeman’s proposed $67.7 million budget for Elizabeth City includes major capital expenditures for the police and fire departments.
The proposed budget, which would raise the city property rate by 10 cents, also includes money for a new gym floor at Knobbs Creek Recreational Center, a new tractor for the Parks and Recreation Department, a mower for the street department and money for several repair projects. The budget also proposes to add two positions to city government.
Freeman’s recommended budget, which City Council saw for the first time Monday, also calls for financing a new fire truck and five new police vehicles.
The new fire ladder truck will cost $964,464 while the five new police cars will cost $312,000. The purchases, however, will be financed over time. As a result, the budget impact next year will be $108,000 for the fire truck and $60,500 for the police cars.
The city routinely replaces five police cars every year while the fire truck is a replacement for an aging ladder truck, one of two in the department.
“We have a huge need for a fire truck,” city Finance Director Evelyn Benton told councilors.
Councilor Billy Caudle said the city needs to be in a position where it doesn’t have to finance the purchase of new police cars every year.
“Every year, we need to be able to just buy five because we are rolling out of one contract and into another,” Caudle said. “Maybe that’s the way to do it.”
Freeman responded by saying he hopes to end the practice of financing new police cars in the city’s 2022-23 budget.
“Not just police cars,” Freeman said. “You have public utilities in the same boat and parks and rec also.”
The two new government positions — one in human resources and another in information technology — will cost the city a total of $106,266 for salary and benefits.
Freeman told council that the city’s two current IT employees are overworked.
“It is mind boggling to me that two (IT) persons are handling the load of this organization,” Freeman said.
Freeman said the human resources position is needed in part to help revise policies that are in some cases more than 30 years old. The revisions are needed to give the city legal protection if it were ever sued.
“For me as a manager, it is about making sure that the organization is protected,” Freeman said. “When I looked at the policies and I looked at the age of those policies, I got a little nervous. There are not many things that scare me, but that scared me.”
Councilor Gabriel Adkins urged City Council to add the IT position.
“Two guys are trying to run the whole operation, they definitely need help,” Adkins said. “Everything is about technology now, we need to pencil that piece in.”
Council was told at its retreat several months ago that the gym floor at Knobbs Creek Recreation Center has become a safety issue due to raised water pockets that form under the surface. The current floor was installed over two older floors without a moisture barrier.
The $150,000 needed to replace the gym floor will also be financed over time with a budget impact of $31,511 next fiscal year.
Adkins said replacing the gym floor should be a priority.
“We saw those pictures (of the gym floor) at the retreat, we definitely have to put a stickie note next to that,” Adkins said.
The Harper Hawk Tractor for Parks and Recreation will cost almost $53,000 and will also be financed with a debt impact of $11,127 annually.
Some one-time capital expenditures in the budget include $85,000 for roof replacement at the fire department’s Halstead Station; $15,000 to replace heating, air conditioning and ventilation units at city-owned buildings; and $7,830 for two surveillance cameras.