Leaders may have to cut jobs, raise taxes

FAYETTEVILLE Leaders got their first look Wednesday at next year's proposed budget and they say no one liked what they saw.

"It's going to be very difficult for a full majority … to be happy, cause this is hard times," City Councilman D.J. Haire said.

For two and a half hours, City Manager Dale Iman spelled out what promises to be troubling times. Revenues are down, so up to 35 positions -- many unfilled -- will be eliminated and seven city workers will be laid off.

The proposed budget options would increase transit fares and city fees for everything from inspections to garbage collection, along with some city services including leaf collections and street lights. Some bus services will also be suspended or cut back.

There will also be no merit pay raises, just a small across the board pay increase for some city workers and there will be little or no overtime for police and fire fighters.

The budget will cut funding for non-profit agencies, city functions and money for playground equipment and city owned vehicles.

The extreme measures are due to a growing deficit could bankrupt the city n five years.

"And the gap is widening," Iman said. "I mean what we don't address this year goes to $12 million next year and could escalate up to $22 million and you can't let that happen."

But city leaders say the immediate need is to find a minimum of $3.5 million to cover next year's expected shortfall.

"I think we will have the opportunity to find extra savings that can get us close to the current tax rate," Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne said. "We will have a balanced budget."

Nearly half a dozen budget workshops are scheduled at city hall between now and June 14. That's when city leaders are expected to formally adopt a new budget and set a tax rate.

In the meantime, the city has launched a website to keep people up to date about the budget process. For more information visit www.ci.fayetteville.nc.us.

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