Damn, We're In a Tight Spot
So how can this city get back on its feet? I'm glad you asked that question. There's two options and one is filing bankruptcy. The City of Lumberton has destroyed its credit rating and they're not in the position to borrow money but they are obligated by law to have an adequate police department. Currently, they're failing in that obligation. However, if the City of Lumberton file bankruptcy, it will give them an opportunity to restructure and get some debt relief. As noted in the video of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors meeting, the mayor was chided because he and this board never attempted to implement the plans recommended by the board of supervisors. Two months ago, Winston sought help with the city finances and he was told that a millege rate increase was recommended. Winston said, "they could not afford to raise taxes" and Mike Backstrom, Lamar County Board member informed Winston that "you cannot afford not to raise taxes". Backstrom went on to tell Mayor Winston that "I don't think you've done all you can do." Basically, that's one of the reasons why the Lamar County Board of Supervisors are reluctant to assist the City of Lumberton. Lumberton officials want to draw monthly salaries and have their hefty insurance premiums paid by the taxpayers of Lumberton but they're not willing to make decisions that would benefit the citizens; they're only looking for self preservation and they have to qualms about maintaining their benefits via the elimination of the police department. The board had ample time and given direct instructions that a millege rate increase was not only needed but necessary. Just like the Lamar County Board member, Philip Carlisle, stated "before we ask our tax payers....to fork over and give money for an effort, we have to make sure, as the Board of Supervisors, that the city has done all they could within itself to try to move forward." Sadly, this board has not tried to resolve the matter. They're only goal is to get rid of the police department but they are not saying or doing anything about the fact that we have a city clerk that don't know how to prepare a budget or use the software program that's essential to her job performance. Not surprisingly, Alderwoman at Large, Cora Rogers is basically mimicking everything said by Ben Winston. According to Cora, "the city didn't raise property taxes because of the age and classification of Lumberton residents". Where did she get this information; Richard Rose? Cora also went on to say "the city has raised the price of water in the past, but the lack of large businesses is the reason for the gap in tax revenue". Please help me understand. Wouldn't the lack of large businesses and a gap in tax revenue give any marginally intelligent individual an indication that revenue needs to be generated somehow? But how? Ummmmmmmmmmm......oh I got it, a millege rate increase. There's an old saying that says "it's better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt". I would suggest that Winston and Cora become mimes whenever questioned by the press. Now let this less than smart but quite intelligent member of the street committee drop some knowledge about Cora Rogers' statement. For the record, increasing the water bill does not help the general fund; it's used to fund WSOM and cannot be used to fund other departments. Now, funds generated from a millege rate increase, goes into the general fund account. When Winston said, "we can't afford a tax increase", he wasn't referring to the citizens, he was speaking for his fellow land hoarders and a few board members. In case you didn't know, any land, other than your primary residence, is considered rental property and does not qualify for a tax exemption. Rental properties are charged at a rate of 15% of the value of the property. Since Mayor Winston and several board members own multiple properties, it is in their best interest to block any increases in taxes. I know land taxes are expensive, but there's no revenue here and how many more years are we going to blame Cooper Industries? FYI, the last time taxes were raised in the City of Lumberton, Terry Cannaday was on the board. Our mayor and board members are more concerned about self preservation and they're willing to sacrafice your public safety to keep their pockets fat.
I know I said there were two options. The first option is bankruptcy and the second option is related to the bonds of the elected officials. Each elected official has a $25,000 bond. In order to generate revenue for this city, they can revoke their bonds and the money can be transferred over to the city; that would be $150,000 if the mayor and entire board relinquished their bonds. Unfortunately, there's a problem, well, for the elected officials. They can't serve or sign checks without a bond. So basically, if they give up their bonds, they're essentially resigning. I'm not sure we have any officials that care enough to relinquish their bond. Besides, the thought of having another election is equally frightening. I don't know their next step, but I think they're going to seek help on the state level but that also comes with a series of consequences. In order to get help from the state, the mayor and board will have to admit they overspent the budget. The penalty for overextending the budget is revocation of their bonds. But if the state pulls the bonds, the bonds will be doubled to $50,000 each, and that money will be turned over to the city and the board members will be forced to resign. The next few days/weeks are going to be very interesting. Maybe now the board is willing to listen to the concerned citizens of Lumberton because they're in a tight spot and some very tough decisions need to be made but getting rid of the police department is mot an available option. It's time to either give up your bond or file for bankruptcy. I will keep you posted.