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Feeless days may end as budget passes

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

Lebanon finally has a budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 as City Council gave third and final approval on expenditures of $18 million during a special meeting on Wednesday.

The budget did not pass without additional comment, however.

Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath moved to vote on the general fund, gas department and sewer and water budgets separately.

The biggest change was made to the gas budget. The council removed $87,500 out of capital projects for the department, which Warmath said could keep gas rates from increasing.

“Government spends money,” Warmath said. “That’s what it does best. … I’m not saying that I will never vote for fees or tax increases, but I can promise that the inefficiencies in this government will have to be fixed before I do.”

Warmath said that there were too many inefficient business practices by Lebanon city employees and department heads such as allowing workers to get paid while not doing their jobs.

“It would be irresponsible for us to add fees or increase taxes while that stuff is going on,” she said. “We work for the people, not the city employees.”

One change that was made was to the street department – the chipper service will go from weekly to monthly. The change is due to the moving of workers from the street department to the water and sewer departments, said Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines.

After all three budgets were approved and the unchanged city property tax of 33.5 cents was set, Warmath challenged the department heads to remember this budget and to be more responsible.

Mayor Philip Craighead said that he would not veto this budget because “we don’t need to carry this thing on.”

“We are the leanest-run city around,” Craighead said. “We are going to have to make changes.”

“For the future, we can’t continue to give away services and rely on a low property tax ... we are going to have to look at some way of diversifying our revenue,” he added.

Craighead said that even though the council was able to balance the budget without adding fees or raising taxes, the feeless days of Lebanon may soon be over.

“My aim with a fee is to spread it out so that it’s not burdening just one group,” Craighead said. “The stormwater cleanup is a federal program and we are providing that without a fee to cover the cost.”

Craighead also mentioned the garbage collection fee as a possible solution to the revenue problem. He said it costs the city around $1.2 million a year to collect the garbage and without a fee, “it’s becoming a drain on the general fund.

“I’m still cheap,” Craighead said, “but I’m also a business man. I know you can’t survive long giving away your product with no profit.”

Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at ben@wilsonpost.com.

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