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Board OKs $3M budget for upcoming year

Despite questions about how much damage recovery operations fromHurricane Katrina will cost the town, aldermen Tuesday approved abudget of slightly more than $3 million for the next fiscalyear.

“We don’t know, we won’t know for several months, how much thiswill cost us,” said Mayor David Nichols in recommending thebudget.

In addition, he said, the town is mired in bureaucracyconcerning budget laws that prohibit it from being changed beforethis month’s deadline. In accordance with the law, the town hasalready announced its budget and held public meetings to giveresidents the opportunity to voice their objections. There is notime to devise a new budget and accomplish those mandatoryrequirements before the deadline, Nichols said.

“We’re stuck where we are for the time being,” he said.

Aldermen approved the tax levy Tuesday with no increase beforeadopting the budget. The town’s millage held steady at 40.25 mills.One mill is equivalent to approximately $18,000.

Nichols said if the cost of hurricane recovery operations proveto be too high, the town may have to levy a special tax later inthe year to cover those costs.

The mayor also cautioned aldermen to keep a close watch on thestate. In past instances when the state has suffered a majorsetback, one of the first things it’s done was to cut the amount ofhomestead exemption funds returned to the counties andmunicipalities, he said. It is a major source of income for thetown.

“You can just bet that’s going to happen again this go around,”Nichols said.

Lawrence County was added to the federal disaster list forpublic facilities and individuals Tuesday. The listing entitlescitizens to no-interest loans for damage sustained by the hurricaneand opens the town for other disaster relief that may prevent theneed for a special tax levy, he said.