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Mayor: Stormwater fees could save 15 jobs

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

The Lebanon city budget for fiscal year 2009-10 is set to be voted on during the city council’s August 4 meeting.

The council is planning on abolishing 37 city positions, 27 that are currently manned with the other ten empty, in order to gain funding necessary to balance the budget.

However, Mayor Phillip Craighead has proposed introducing a stormwater fee of $2.50 a month for residences that he claims could balance the budget and then some, including saving 12 to 15 of the jobs that are set to be cut.

“It’s a small price to pay,” Craighead said.

Craighead claims that the revenue from the stormwater fees could fund the senior citizen’s center $80,000 of the $100,000 cut from its budget; get the Historic Lebanon budget back to its previous level of $10,000; make back $2500 for Christmas on the Square; eliminate certain lawsuits the city is facing; and keep several services that the council is set to do away with.

“You either find money for these services,” Craighead said, “or you cut them. We have cut over $2 million from the budget and our projections [for how much sales tax revenue will be down] are low.”The mayor said he talked to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-mart in Lebanon and they project that their sales tax revenues will be short by a total $750,000. This would mean that the city would be $1.4 million short on total tax revenue.

“Right now, there’s not enough revenue to save the 27 jobs,” Craighead said, but he believes that the fee he is proposing could save some of the jobs.

Craighead recommended several jobs that need to remain, including Human Resource Director, City Liason, Stormwater Inspector, and “as many Building Inspectors as we can save.”

The city currently has three building inspectors.

“Mr. Farmer and the city council want to leave only one Building Inspector,” Craighead said. “I believe that we need to keep the current amount so that we can keep everything running smoothly. With one inspector, the work slows down and businesses may build elsewhere.”Craighead said there are several hotels with plans to build in Lebanon, but if the inspection process is slowed, they may get frustrated and build in another city, which would take revenue away from Lebanon.

In regards to the HR Director, the mayor has talked to several companies with at least 400 employees, the same as the City of Lebanon, and these business owners told Craighead that an HR Director is needed to keep order with the hiring and firing of personnel, whether full-time or part-time.

Kathy Warmath, Ward 6 councilor, said at a previous meeting that her constituents could not afford this fee and that it was too much. “We have never paid for these services,” Warmath said, “and with the economy the way it is, it’s a bad time to start paying for them.”Mayor Craighead responded by saying, “It’s $2.50. It’s nothing. No, it’s not ‘nothing’. It’s 12 to 15 jobs.”

At the time of publication, the mayor did not have any votes supporting his proposal.

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