By Ken MacDonald • The City of Raeford reached into contingency money to keep from being left behind and having their police officers poached by higher-paying law enforcement agencies. City Council agreed to add $154,000 to its budget—just before adopting it Monday night at its regular meeting—to fund increases for existing and new officers.
“Ya’ll are aware that the sheriff’s department, the county, just bumped the pay for the deputies,” said City Manager Dennis Baxley, as the budget came up for discussion. “We’re between a rock and a hard place. We knew it was coming at some point where pay was just going to have to go up. So included in the budget is a pay increase comparable to what the sheriff’s doing to keep us competitive. Now that was a $154,000 hit.”
Baxley said Tuesday morning starting pay would go to approximately $40,800, up from about $36,800, and all existing officers would be re-graded to equal an approximate 15 percent increase.
Hoke Sheriff Dr. Hubert Peterkin recently asked for and received a similar increase for deputies, citing competition from surrounding counties that was leaving the office increasingly and drastically shorthanded.
The City funded the change from contingency and from its fund balance. Baxley said an upcoming revaluation of property values should have recoup the difference—that and money from a housing development planned off of Palmer St.
In adopting the $6.37 million budget, City Council left the tax rate unchanged at 48 cents per hundred-dollar valuation.
The budget also shifted some $15,400 to the Fire Department to match a grant it received.
The board had heard requests from multiple non-profit organizations, and in previous meetings, debated which if any to fund.
In the end, the budget included:
• $20,000 for the Raeford Museum
• $10,000 for the Hoke Rescue Squad
• $2,000 for the Raeford-Hoke Literacy Council
• $1,000 for Farm-City Week
• $20,000 for the Children’s Developmental Center
Three organizations—The Raeford-Hoke Chamber of Commerce, the Hoke Re-entry Program, and the Downtown Raeford Business Association, did not receive funding.
Baxley said most of the budget remained unchanged from the draft presented last month. It affords a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for City employees. The City will also absorb a six-percent increase in insurance costs for its workers. Baxley said the cost has been driven up by expensive claims.
A five-percent water rate increase has been planned for several years as part of funding for improvements at the City’s wastewater treatment plant. City residents also began paying five percent more last year. At the time, that translated into an average of $2.28 more for a user of 5,000 gallons of water per month—a bit more than the typical user of 3,000 gallons, Baxley said.
Trash pick-up restored
After announcing last week the City’s trash trucks “suffered mechanical failures,” and residents’ garbage sat uncollected by the road, City Manager Baxley said Monday night service is being restored.
On the City’s Public Works Facebook page, Felecia Locklear posted trash and recycle collected service would begin again Tuesday morning—at 3 a.m., in fact, Baxley told Council.
After a public hearing, in which no one spoke, City Council approved a subdivision of 37 lots accessible only from a much larger subdivision it approved last month. “Raeford Commons 2,” would be on 22 acres of land off Thomas Drive. City Planner Felecia Locklear told Council the only access would be from Raeford Commons One, a 191-lot subdivision approved last month by the board. It’s located roughly behind West Hoke Middle School, off Palmer Street.
Mark Lyczkowski, speaking or Forge Investment Group, told Council the firm needs to develop the 22 acres to offset costs associated with the larger subdivision, particularly traffic improvements. The development will necessitate turning lanes on Palmer Street, and the improvement of Rogers Road he said. “To help absorb the infrastructure costs we decided to go ahead and try to pursue some additional inventory—lots—for the future, because at some point we have to put in those road improvents.”
His comments came after Councilwoman Mary Neil King asked about the impact on traffic from another subdivision.