W.P. Council Looks to Cut Back Spending
In an effort to head off any potential revenue shortfalls, the Whispering Pines Village Council discussed a proposal Wednesday to reduce its annual operating budget by at least 3 percent.
Council member Randy Saunders, who also serves as treasurer, made the proposal. He cited a possible reduction in state funding for municipalities and a recommendation from the League of Municipalities that governments should reduce their budgets by 6 percent.
Saunders suggested making departmental cuts across the board rather than making line item cuts. The other members agreed but they ultimately decided not to vote on a specific percentage.
The council instead asked Village Manager Steve DeBolt to speak with the departmental heads and see how much could be cut, with 3 percent as the goal.
"We should establish a goal this month and come down with the hammer next month," council member Skip Gebhardt said. "In the first January meeting, I'd like to see from the manager what percentage he has cut and see if that's acceptable."
Mayor Bob Zschoche agreed, saying it was better for the village to be conservative and proactive now instead of having to scramble and make cuts later.
"The only thing we can control with certainty is our expenditures," he said.
DeBolt said he has always tried to be cautious in spending, but understands that the volatile economy dictates more drastic measures.
"I realize we have to go a step forward, and we're prepared to do that," he said.
The budget discussion followed a presentation of the village's comprehensive annual financial report. It is the first year that Whispering Pines has published a report using the standards set by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, which other municipalities in the county use.
Auditor Lloyd McConnell, who presented the report, said that following the collapse of several major corporations over the past decade, there has been a push for better accounting practices.
"There is an extreme amount of pressure on government units to exercise as strong an oversight over their organization as they can," he said.
McConnell said that offering such a detailed and comprehensive financial report can also pay dividends down the road.
"If you go to the bond market, hopefully you'll see a lower rate of interest on bond issues," he said.
The council is making the report available to residents free of charge, saying everyone who wants to read it should be allowed to do so.
DeBolt also announced that the village has hired a new fire chief and has named an "acting" police chief to take over for Chief Louis Gregory who is retiring Feb. 1.
Scott Bullard, who has served as the volunteer fire chief and is a certified firefighter, has been named the new fire chief. He is expected to start within the first couple of weeks in January.
"He's more than qualified for the position, and we're happy to have him on board," DeBolt said Thursday.
Current Whispering Pines police Lt. Domonic Campbell will be the interim police chief until the village can complete a formal search process. Because of the upcoming holidays, that process will not be completed before Gregory's retirement date, necessitating the appointment of an interim chief.
The Moore County Law Enforcement Association recently presented Campbell with its James W. Wise Officer of the Year Award for 2008. Campbell has served on the Whispering Pines police force for the past 15 years.
Gregory presented the award to Campbell again at the council meeting and praised Campbell's service.
"I'm proud that we have someone within our department with this ability to lead our people," he said. "He is qualified and most deserving."
Campbell thanked Gregory for his support and pledged to do his best in his new capacity.
"We'll go give it everything we've got and do a good job for you," he said.
DeBolt also announced that longtime Village Clerk Geneva Wilson will be retiring in March, following 16 years of service in that capacity.
"I'd like to thank her for her dedicated service over the past 16 years," he said.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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