Stallings mayor involves residents in budget planning

STALLINGS – While leaders in Stallings continue their discussions over the next year’s fiscal budget, Mayor Lynda Paxton is looking to get residents more involved in the process between now and a likely budget vote in June.

Paxton is inviting 25 residents, who must sign up before May 1, to the Budget Challenge on May 20, a Monday, at 7 p.m. during her monthly forum.  Anyone interested can sign-up, but spaces are limited.  The mayor says the event should take around two to three hours.  The location for the event will be announced at a later date.

Over the years Paxton has attended a number of workshops on how to get citizens of a town involved in budget planning, but it wasn’t until she was in Wilmington that the mayor found something she thought would work well for Stallings.  The budget workshop, or Budget Challenge, will allow residents to get in groups, much like the town council, and work through the individual line items in the budget to see how different changes could affect the outcome.

“I have been to several workshops over the years on how to engage citizens in the budget process,” Paxton said.  “Wilmington has a great process where residents can go online and make adjustments to the budget and see what impact it would have.”

But the budget for Paxton’s citizen event won’t be as detailed as what the council sees each year in order to make the process move forward smoothly.  After the challenge, Paxton will present any discussions brought up during budget talks to council members in the final month of planning.

“I’m going to put them into groups like a council and give them information about requested expenditures and revenues and with some guidance encourage them to work out a simplified budget,” she said.

Although this is the first year the town has held an event like this, it’s something Paxton’s wanted for a while.  But since the council determined it would be too expensive for the town to fund, she decided to make it a part of her monthly forum and fund the event herself, which also includes dinner.

“It’s something I have continued to want to do, so I just decided this year, since I have been doing these forums, that I would do this as a forum activity,” Paxton said.

According to Paxton, council is still in discussions about the budget and has a lot of work to get through before the deadline this summer.  The new budget must be approved by July 1 or the town will have to operate on an emergency-spending package. Council also is trying to finalize the Capital Improvement Plan before approving the budget, so any projects for the upcoming year can be included in the coming year’s budget.

“We just got into some of the details at the last meeting, but there still hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about things so we have a lot of work to do,” Paxton said.

For more information or to register for the Budget Challenge contact Paxton at 704-882-1083 or lpaxton@mayor.stallingsnc.org.

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